By: Brett Shainfeld

Though the California lemon law applies to much more than just cars, it’s definitely vehicles that often get the title of “lemon” when they don’t work as they should. If you’ve ever bought or leased a new car, you’ve likely heard warnings against buying a lemon from the dealership, along with instructions to always read the fine print.

Unfortunately, not all lemon cars are easily spotted at the dealership. It may give a perfect test drive, or have a weird smell they assure you is completely normal and will go away in a few days. So you sign the paperwork and take it home, but your dream car ends up turning into a nightmare.

A car that experiences the same problems over and over again, and doesn’t respond to repair attempts, is likely a lemon. If this sounds familiar and you find yourself thinking, “I was sold a lemon car,” don’t give up hope. We can help you better understand how the lemon law works and what to do if you buy a lemon.

What’s The Lemon Law for Cars

There are both federal and state lemon laws in place to protect consumers, and they cover both cars and additional household and everyday items that fall under a warranty. The lemon law for cars provides consumers certain protections against faulty vehicles that are sold under a warranty. If your new car or used car, whether it was purchased or leased came with a warranty from either the dealership or the manufacturer, and it doesn’t work as it should, you’re entitled to compensation from the car’s manufacturer.

Most manufacturers don’t want you to know this, because once you drive the car off the lot, it’s your problem to deal with. They don’t want you to bring it back, because then they’re the ones losing money on the deal. So you probably won’t hear your dealership talking to you about what to should do if you buy a lemon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the money you deserve.

The Dealership Sold Me a Bad Car — What Can I Do?

Do you think you have a lemon? Under the lemon law, your car is a lemon if it suffers from substantial defects that persist after a reasonable number of repair attempts — what counts as substantial defects and a reasonable number of attempts will differ depending on the state you live in.

For example, the lemon law presumption in California, you have to have made four or more attempts to fix the same warranty issue, or two or more attempts to fix a problem that could result in death or serious injury. The lemon law for cars also typically operates under a set time frame, from 12 to 18 months, or 12,000 to 18,000 miles, after you purchase the car (again, depending on the state you live in).

Even if the time limit or the warranty on your car has passed, you may still be eligible for compensation under the lemon law. If the problems with your car began before the warranty expired, you can still be covered under the lemon law.

If you have a lemon, you may be entitled to compensation from the manufacturer in the form of a buyback, a replacement vehicle, or a cash settlement.

What If I Bought a Used Car?

Though it’s usually new cars that fall under the lemon law’s protection, the lemon law still applies to used cars in California. All you need is for the car to be covered under a warranty. A used car that has only had one owner and may be from the previous model year may still have the original warranty it was sold under. If that’s the case, you can still pursue a lemon lawsuit against the manufacturer.

Sometimes, a dealership that deals in used cars will write their own warranties to accompany their cars. If you’re buying from a dealership, be sure to ask about any express written warranties they’re willing to offer along with the sale of the car.

If you purchased a used car, and you think it’s a lemon, it’s always better to check and see if you’re still eligible for compensation. Contact an expert lemon lawyer — like those of us at Shainfeld Law — for advice on how to proceed.

What to Do If You Buy a Lemon

If your new car is experiencing major issues, the first thing to do is to try and get it fixed. Sometimes, the problems can be repaired, and hopefully that is the case, so that it’s a one-and-done shop visit that will get you back on the road without any more problems. But if you find yourself returning to the mechanic over and over again, that’s a sure sign you have a lemon car.

Throughout the length of the lemon law process, be sure to keep thorough records of every repair attempt on your car. Keep track of receipts, how many days the car was in the shop each time, and the names of people who worked on your car. Keep track of expenses related to the repair as well, such as towing costs or rental car fees. If you pursue a case, and you win, the car’s manufacturer will be responsible for reimbursing you for all of these expenses.

Your next step is to contact the dealership or manufacturer of the car and let them know you believe you purchased a lemon. They may be willing to help you, and if they are, you can get a replacement or a buyback from the dealership. But if not, the next course of action is to pursue a lemon lawsuit against the manufacturer.

For that, you’ll want to partner with an expert lemon lawyer who is well versed in your state’s lemon law. And all those records you’ve kept for visits to the repair shop will come in handy to serve as evidence.

What Is the Lemon Lawsuit Process Like?

The length of the process will often be determined by the type of case you choose to pursue. The manufacturer will likely try to convince you that your only option is an arbitration process, but this isn’t the case.

Arbitration is when an arbiter is appointed to hear both sides of the case — yours and the manufacturer’s. You’ll represent yourself, with no help from a lawyer, while the manufacturer will likely be represented by an expert arbiter who’s well-versed in the state lemon law. After hearing both sides, the arbiter will make a decision regarding compensation, and whether the manufacturer owes you anything. But with arbitration, there’s a limited opportunity to appeal if you disagree with the arbiter’s choice. So you can see why manufacturers want you to go this route.

If you were sold a lemon car, your best chance of winning compensation comes from pursuing your lemon law claim with the help of a lemon law expert lawyer. At Shainfeld Law, we have a 99% success rate behind us when it comes to solving lemon law cases in California. Because we know all the details of the lemon law, and know how to present evidence in the best way for your case, your chances of winning are much higher than they would be if you pursued arbitration on your own. And you have the ability to appeal the case to a higher court if the court doesn’t rule in your favor.

Pursuing a lemon law claim also be cheaper for you than handling the process via arbitration. If you win your lemon law case in Court, the car manufacturer has to cover all your legal fees. Manufacturers know they have a low chance of winning in court, so they often want to settle prior. This way, they don’t have to pay as much for their lawyers, or for yours.

Depending on your individual case, a lemon claim often takes one to three months from beginning to end, which is without having to file an actual lemon lawsuit. While this isn’t a “quick fix,” it’s still easier than driving a faulty car that spends days or weeks at a time in the shop and never actually gets fixed.

Consider Us Your Lemon-Aid

When life hands you a lemon, we’re here to make sure you get the compensation you deserve so you can get back on the road. We’ll help you figure out what to do if you buy a lemon and how you can get your money back from the car manufacturer. Our expert lemon lawyers have over ten years of experience winning lemon law cases in California — if we can’t get you back on the road, no one can.

Start off by checking out the free resources on our website through our FAQ and News pages, or check through some of our other blog posts for more information. Then check in with us for a free consultation that’s tailored to your specific case. In your personalized consultation, we’ll review your case, help you determine if you have a lemon car, and advise on the next best course of action for you.

If you were sold a lemon car, you aren’t stuck with it forever. The federal and state lemon laws are in place to protect people just like you from being taken advantage of by car companies and dealerships. You’ve saved your money to purchase the car of your dreams, and you should be able to enjoy a properly working car that isn’t a threat to your safety. At Shainfeld Law, we’ll be there every step of your lemon journey.

Contact us today to talk about your Lemon Law claim.