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How the Lemon Law protects you from defective vehicles

You purchase a new vehicle and are thrilled with it, until it starts to need repairs. Not just a few repairs, but a lot of them. In fact, it starts to feel like your car spends more time at the service shop than it does with you.

If this happens, your car might be a "lemon," or a defective vehicle. Thanks to the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, also known at the California Lemon Law, you have options to remedy the situation.

California's Lemon law protects consumers from serious car warranty defects that the dealer or manufacturer can't repair after a "reasonable number" of attempts. In many cases, you may be entitled to a replacement vehicle or refund of what you paid. 

The Lemon Law also has a presumption guideline which states that a vehicle is considered a lemon if any of the following criteria are met within 18 months of delivery to the buyer or lessee or 18,000 miles on the vehicle's odometer, whichever occurs sooner.

  • Manufacturer or its agents have made two or more attempts to fix a warranty problem that could result in serious injury or death
  • Manufacturer or agents have made four or more attempts to fix the same warranty problem
  • The vehicle has been out of service for 30 days or more due to warranty problems
  • Problems to the vehicle substantially reduce its use, value and safety to the consumer and are not the result of abuse.

The first step if you suspect your vehicle is a lemon is to report it in writing to the manufacturer, asking them to buy it back or offer a replacement. It is best to send this notification via certified mail. If the manufacturer refuses, you have the right to an arbitration hearing - as well as the right to hire a lawyer.

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