If your new car is spending more time at the manufacturer’s garage than it spends on the highways, you might have purchased a lemon. But good news is, under the California lemon law, you can get your refund or get the vehicle replaced with a comparable one. Generally, this law covers new vehicles with defects that are likely to impact the vehicles safety, value or use. If the defects can’t be fixed after reasonable number of attempts, your car dealer or manufacturer will be left with no option other than refunding your purchase price or replacing the vehicle with a similar one.

California lemon law criteria

Under the California lemon law, if you purchase a lemon vehicle, you’ll be entitled to a refund or vehicle replacement, but you must meet the following conditions:

  • The vehicle must still be under warranty in order to be covered under this law
  • You must have taken the vehicle to your vehicle manufacturer for repair of a recurring defect up to 4 times.
  • The car must be out of service for a period of 30 days or more while under repair in the manufacturer’s garage.
  • The problem must impair the vehicles market value, safety or use.
  • The car must be purchased or leased in the state of California
  • The vehicle must be of family, personal or business use

Why keep vehicle records

Reputable manufacturers will try their best to get the defects repaired or the car replaced. But there are some stubborn manufacturers who may refuse to grant you your request after repair failure. In this event you may decide to file a case against them. To file a strong case under California lemon law, you need considerable amount of evidence to proof your case. You need some documents and track records regarding the vehicle in question. Some of the documents required include vehicle purchase/lease receipt, vehicle service history and evidence of communication and correspondence between you and your car dealer or manufacturer. Keep all the records regarding your car service, problem diagnosis, repair attempts and communication details.

What to do if you have a lemon

Under California lemon law, you are required to go through this process:

  1. Notify your car dealer or manufacturer to have a final repair attempt. You should notify them through a registered mail. Keep a return receipt as evidence of communication.
  2. If after a final repair attempt the defects are not repaired, request your manufacturer through a written statement, your willingness to get your refund or vehicle replacement.
  3. If your vehicle dealer/manufacturer fails to honor your request, try to solve the dispute through their informal dispute settlement program.
  4. If still at this stage you fail to reach a compromise resolution, you may want to hire an attorney to represent your case in the court of law.

NOTE: To check whether your vehicle manufacturer has a dispute arbitration program, contact California’s Bureau of Automotive Repair at (800) 952-5210.