By: Brett Shainfeld
The Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, commonly referred to as the California lemon law is one of the most comprehensive and protective consumer statutes in the country. The lemon law covers both new and used vehicles whether they are purchased or leased, as long as there are multiple warrantable repair attempts for the same issues or problems at an authorized dealership. On its face the California lemon law appears to be straightforward- buy or lease a car, the car has problems, take it in a couple of times and you have a lemon vehicle. Were it only that simple, which is something the California lemon law takes into account and is why the lemon law recommends and some would argue strongly urges the hiring of an experienced lemon law attorney. For the same reason you hire a plumber to fix a major leak, hire an accountant to do your taxes or hire a dentist to pull an infected tooth, while you could do all these things on your own and even handle your own lemon law claim, it is recommended to have someone experienced help. One of the biggest mistakes qualified lemon law attorneys deal with is consumers who attempted to represent themselves on a lemon law claim or hire an attorney with no lemon law experience, and then after not getting the results they expected after all their lemon law research online they reach out to a qualified lemon law attorney. It is usually harder to fix mistakes made on a lemon law claim and get a consumer what they are entitled to under the California lemon law rather than do the claim right from the start.
With that brief introduction, here is a guide of what to expect with a lemon law buyback from purchase to surrender.
You lease or purchase a new vehicle, which then begins to undergo multiple warrantable repairs for the same issues or problems. The dealership is unable to fix them. Given your frustration, you do research for an experienced California lemon law attorney. The lemon law lawyer should provide you a free consultation and review of your claim. Do not hire a lemon law attorney who is asking for money to work on your case. Once again, be leery of lemon law lawyers who will forego the pre-litigation demand and simply file a lemon law lawsuit. While your lemon law case might require a lawsuit, the vast majority of California lemon law claims can be resolved without filing a lawsuit. The advantage of not filing a lawsuit comes down to timing. Generally, without filing suit a lemon law claim can be resolved in about 30 to 90 days. Should a lawsuit be filed either instead of or because it is necessary, it can take up to 2 years to resolve.
Once you have selected a qualified lemon law attorney a lemon law buyback demand will be sent out to the manufacturer. During this time your lemon law attorney will provide the manufacturer all the documents to support your case and keep you fully apprised of your lemon law claim. Make sure your lemon law attorney is available at your convenience to keep you updated of your lemon law claim.
Once the manufacturer has agreed to buyback your lemon vehicle, you will need to provide the financials for your vehicle, namely the vehicle payment history, which includes all payments made to date, including tax, interest, and finance charges, along with the loan payoff amount, which lets the manufacturer know how much they need to write a check to the lender to pay off the balance owed on your lemon vehicle. The manufacturer will then provide your lemon law attorney an itemized buyback offer. Generally speaking, you are entitled to your down payment and monthly payments made, along with the pro-rated current registration, subject to deductions authorized under California lemon law. These deductions include, but are not limited to- negative equity from a prior vehicle, manufacturer’s rebates, GAP coverage, and third-party service contracts. As you can see while the lemon law seems quite clear there is a lot that goes into making sure you get all you are entitled to.
At this point, you will sign a Release agreeing to all terms in the lemon law buyback and holding the manufacturer accountable for the same terms. It will then take the manufacturer anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks to get the lemon law settlement check and check to the lender issued. During this time you will stay up to date on your loan payments (any additional payments made will be paid back to you separately and directly by the lender following the surrender). Once the checks are issued your lemon law lawyer will set up a date and time at your authorized dealership for the surrender to take place.
At the vehicle surrender, the surrender agent or dealership contact will conduct a vehicle inspection. Your lemon vehicle will need to be returned to the manufacturer with no major dings, dents, scrapes, scratches, cracked windshield, and a minimum level of tire depth tread. As a rule of thumb, any ding, dent or scratch that can be covered by a business card is deemed normal wear and tear. Should there be excessive damage you either have the option to pay the dealership to get it repaired or take it to a repair/body shop of your choosing. Once the surrender takes place (either during your initial appointment or once repairs have been completed), the manufacturer will send a check to the lender and a separate check to your lemon law attorney with your lemon law settlement. At that point, your lemon law lawyer will either mail you a check or direct deposit your settlement into your bank account.
You will now be without your lemon vehicle and free to purchase or lease a new vehicle of your choosing. The odds of having a lemon law vehicle once are very, very low, and thus the odds of having two lemon vehicles in a row are infinitely smaller, which means you can buy a new car with confidence, even if it is the exact same car over which you just filed a successful lemon law claim.