Lemon Law
Halt | June 8, 2021 | 0 Comments

What Does Lemon Law In California Cover?

Returning a brand-new car due to mechanical issues seems like it should be simple. After all, a new vehicle shouldn’t have problems, so it seems clear that the automaker is to blame for faulty manufacturing.

But, as with most legal claims, getting the manufacturer to pay out for a lemon vehicle is tricky. Automakers will do anything they can to say that a vehicle does not meet the legal requirements for a buyback or replacement. This is to protect their pocketbook and reputation.

Lemon law lawyers in California must prove that the vehicle exhibits a “nonconformity” that results in a condition “likely to cause death or serious bodily injury.” This vehicle must meet certain parameters under CA lemon law, such as:

  • The defect must be reported to the manufacturer during the warranty period.
  • The vehicle was out of commission for repairs for at least 30 days.
  • The vehicle received a reasonable number of repair attempts from a certified mechanic, which were unsuccessful.
  • The defect was not caused by driver abuse.

But there are many other situations where lemon law may or may not apply to this legislation. So, the question that most clients have is what exactly does lemon law in California cover?

Let’s discuss.

Lemon Law In California

1. Types Of Vehicles Covered

Filing a Lemon Law Claim

Every state has slightly different specifications for what qualifies a vehicle as a lemon. Most states only allow for lemon law to apply to brand-new vehicles. Thankfully, California has more flexibility in its legislation and consumers can file a claim with many types of vehicles and circumstances.

Used Vehicles

Owners of used vehicles may submit a lemon law claim for a used vehicle – so long as it still meets the state’s requirements and is covered. This means that the vehicle is still under the dealer warranty, which is normally good for 30 days after purchase or before 1,000 miles accrue on the odometer.

This situation can get tricky, as the manufacturer may argue that it was the original owner’s fault. In this case, it is highly recommended to consult a lemon law lawyer in California to make sure your vehicle qualifies, and you have a proof for the claim.

Leased Vehicles

Leased vehicles can also qualify as lemons and the owner may file a claim for a refund or replacement from the manufacturer. Leased vehicle lemon law cases are generally less common, as manufacturers are usually quick to replace or repair under the leasing warranty.

Recalled Vehicles

Sometimes a manufacturer will try to get ahead of multiple lemon law claims by issuing a widespread recall for a part of a vehicle model. In some cases, you may still be able to file a lemon law claim, especially if the vehicle is presenting more defects than what is included in the recall. Again, it is best to consult with a lemon law lawyer in California to move ahead.

2. Legal Fees For Lemon Law Lawyers

Lemon Lawyer

Under California law, the manufacturer is responsible for covering all legal fees related to the case if the consumer wins their claim. This means that all of the billable hours from the lemon law lawyer will be added to the payout.

This can help consumers quite a bit for several reasons. The first and most obvious is that they won’t have to pay a dime to hire an attorney upfront. Now, finding a great lawyer for your case is crucial because they should only take you on as a client if you have a strong enough case they are likely to win.

The second is that it can sometimes push the manufacturer towards a faster resolution if they know the client has evidence to win. The harder the manufacturer pushes, the more they will likely end up paying out in legal fees. In a recent lemon law case, Tesla was forced to pay out nearly $30,000 just to the consumer’s lawyers!

3. Vehicle Buybacks And Incidental Costs

Now That's Sour Automotive Lemon Laws and How They Protect You

After a judge rules in a case or the manufacturer agrees to a buyback settlement, they are responsible for more than just the vehicle and legal fees. The automaker must pay back the full amount the consumer paid for the vehicle, minus depreciation.

In California, this deduction is calculated with this formula:

(Miles driven before the first repair attempt/120,000 miles) x (cost of the vehicle)

But the automaker is also responsible for any incidental costs associated with the defect. For example, say the vehicle had issues with the brakes that led to an accident. The manufacturer would have to pay for all related costs to this accident, including:

  • Towing fees
  • Lost wages
  • Cab fares
  • Repair costs to any other vehicles in the accident
  • Medical fees of those hurt in the accident
  • Pain and suffering, such as compensation for time taken off of work

There are other fees you may be able to receive payment for as part of the buyout settlement. This includes early termination fees for car insurance or services like AAA. You will also receive payment for official costs such as taxes and registration fees.


Navigating California lemon law can be confusing if you aren’t a legal expert. If you are in a unique situation or are unsure if you meet the state’s requirements, your best bet is to contact a California lemon law attorney. Remember, you won’t have to pay them anything if you’ve got a valid case.


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