new car lemon law california

You have many expectations when you buy a new car. The last thing you want to do is take your new car in for repairs soon after purchasing or leasing it. Sometimes, a new car malfunctions or doesn’t meet basic standards. Do you have any rights?

Fortunately, you do have rights. In California, the Lemon Law for a new car provides you with rights if you purchased or lease a faulty or malfunctioning new car that has been repeatedly repaired for the same or similar issue under warranty.

A dealer or manufacturer cannot shirk their responsibilities the minute a new car leaves the dealership. California’s Lemon Law may be able to protect you.

What Is the Lemon Law in California for New Cars?

The Lemon Law in California for new cars offers fantastic consumer protection. The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, also known as California’s Lemon Law, protects you when you purchase or lease a product or consumer good, such as a new car, under warranty.

California’s Lemon Law for new cars covers:

  • Sedans,
  • Pick-up trucks,
  • Hatchbacks,
  • SUVs,
  • Motorcycles, and
  • Chassis’ and drive trains of motorhomes.

It doesn’t matter if you bought your new vehicle with cash, financed it, or leased it. As long as it is under warranty, it is covered by California’s Lemon Law.

The new car Lemon Law in California requires manufacturers to do the following:

  • Ensure there are repair facilities that are accessible to customers,
  • Make repairs to a new car under warranty,
  • Replace the new car or refund the purchase price of the vehicle if they cannot repair the problem after several attempts, and
  • Pay the customer’s attorney’s fees and costs.

Plus, if the manufacturer willfully violated the Lemon Law, the customer can recover civil penalties from the manufacturer, sometimes amounting up to two times the amount of the vehicle.

What Makes a New Car a Lemon?

In a nutshell, California’s Lemon Law provides that if a manufacturer cannot repair a new vehicle under warranty within a reasonable amount of time or a reasonable number of repair attempts and the issue substantially impairs its safety, use or value, it must either replace the vehicle or provide a refund to the customer.

What is considered “reasonable” can be challenging to define. California’s new car Lemon Law has a presumption to make it easier for customers to understand if their new vehicle is a lemon. A presumption is a legal assumption that something is true if certain facts exist.

With California’s Lemon Law, a court is to presume that the new car is a lemon if, within the first 18,000 miles or first 18 months of your purchase or lease of a new vehicle, one of the following things happens:

  • The new car has been in the repair shop for more than 30 days;
  • The problem could result in serious injury or death, and the manufacturer has attempted to repair it two or more times; or
  • The manufacturer has attempted to repair the vehicle at least four times.

The manufacturer needs notice of the issues you are complaining about for the presumption to apply. Thus, you must inform the manufacturer of your new car if you think it may be a lemon.

Plus, the manufacturer has to be allowed to try to repair the vehicle.

If your car doesn’t fit into one of these categories, it doesn’t mean that it’s not a lemon. You may, however, have to do a bit more legwork to show that it is. An experienced new car Lemon Law attorney can help you evaluate your case.

new car lemon law california

How Do I Know If California’s Lemon Law Covers My New Car?

Under the Lemon Law in California for new cars, you must fulfill specific requirements for coverage.


Your new vehicle must have an active warranty. When you buy a new car, keep any documents referring to the car’s warranty.

You will have to read the fine print on all of your warranty documents to know what it covers and for how long. Unfortunately, you probably don’t have a Lemon Law claim if your warranty period has ended and you did not have any repairs performed to the vehicle during this time period.

Some car dealers offer extended warranties that are actually service contracts. The good news is that the service contract may cover your vehicle repairs.

However, a service contract is not the same as a warranty under the Lemon Law for new cars. Be sure to read all your documents carefully to understand what type of warranty you have.

Other Criteria Under the Lemon Law

Generally, your car must have been purchased or leased in the State of California for the California Lemon Law to apply. You must have also purchased your new car from a manufacturer-authorized retailer or dealer and not a private individual.

The manufacturer must also know about the problem with your new vehicle. Plus, they must have the opportunity to try to repair it. For this reason, it may be best to bring the vehicle to an authorized manufacturer repair shop certified to repair your vehicle.

You cannot have caused the problem with the vehicle. For example, if you took your new sedan off-roading and damaged it, you may be out of luck. Typically, a sedan isn’t designed for off-road driving. If the sedan now has a problem, the manufacturer may claim that you caused this issue with your vehicle.

What Should I Do if My New Car Is a Lemon?

If you think your new car is a lemon, do not fret. Instead, start taking steps to protect yourself and ensure that you preserve your rights under the Lemon Law.

Report all the issues with your new car to the manufacturer as soon as possible. People get busy and may procrastinate taking the car to the auto shop when there is a problem.

Do not delay. You must tell the manufacturer about the issue and give them a chance to fix it for your car to be covered under California’s Lemon Law.

Tell the manufacturer and certified auto repair shop about everything problematic for the car. Double-check that the service orders accurately reflect all of the problems you reported.

Collect all your warranty documents and service orders. Keep everything in a safe place. It may be a good idea also to make notes on a calendar so that you have a good record of the steps you’ve taken to try to remedy the issues with the car.

CA Lemon Law for a New Car: Statute of Limitations

The Lemon Law in California for a new car has a time limit called the statute of limitations.

A statute of limitations is the amount of time you have to file a case in court. For a Lemon Law claim in California, you have four years to file a lawsuit in court from when you knew or should have known about the warranty problems.

It is important to note that you must have first reported the issues with your vehicle before the end of your warranty period. The warranty period may be less than four years.

An experienced California Lemon Law attorney can help you understand your rights and the time limits for bringing your Lemon Law claim. Contact a Lemon Law attorney as early as possible in the process so that you don’t miss any deadlines.

Should I Hire a California Lemon Law Attorney?

The new car Lemon Law in California is undoubtedly complicated. You do not have to battle your vehicle’s manufacturer alone.

As mentioned above, California’s Lemon Law requires manufacturers to pay for a customer’s attorney’s fees and costs. Thus, you can hire an experienced Lemon Law attorney to evaluate your case and fight for your rights under the Lemon Laws.

We can help you navigate the complicated process involved under California’s Lemon Laws.

The award-winning attorneys at The Lemon Law Experts are thorough service providers. We’ve recovered record numbers of verdicts and settlements for new car owners like you.

Contact us today for a free case evaluation.