By: Brett Shainfeld

One of the most sinking feelings in life is thinking you’ve bought a lemon car.

When you’re finally ready to pull the trigger on the best car for you, you should be able to drive your new car off the lot without a care in the world. But unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. A few thousand people each year purchase cars that have faulty or defective parts, and they’re left spending hours of their lives in and out of repair shops trying to fix the problem.

While we hope this hasn’t happened to you, if it has, you aren’t necessarily stuck with your dud of a car. The lemon law is in place to help people who’ve been sold faulty vehicles so they can get the compensation they deserve.

In this article, we are going to tell you more about what the California lemon law is and what kind of compensation you’re entitled to. We will also dive into California’s specific lemon law requirements and discuss how many repairs before a new car is considered a lemon in California (it’s different in each state), what counts as a lemon repair attempt, and when lemon repair attempts need to be made.

What Makes A Car A Lemon?

Each state has their own unique wording and set of requirements to be covered under their lemon law, but the underlying requirements of the lemon law are the same for everyone. Your car must have a substantial defect that persists after a considerable number of repair attempts have been made. In California, this must happen within 18 months or 18,000 miles of the purchase of your car to be covered under the lemon law.

Normally, the lemon law covers new cars because of the time and mileage limit mentioned above. But if you bought a used car, you aren’t out of luck. Certain allowances are made for used lemon cars as well. We can help you understand whether or not your used car is still covered under the law.

How Many Repairs Before A New Car Is A Lemon In California?

When it comes to the lemon law, what’s considered a “substantial defect” and a “considerable the number of repair attempts” will vary from state to state. In California,  the lemon law presumption is you have to meet the following criteria before pursuing a lemon law case:

  • The manufacturer has made two or more repair attempts to fix a warranty problem that could result in death or serious injury
  • The manufacturer has made at least four repair attempts to fix the same warranty problem, and the issue still persists
  • The car has been undrivable for at least 30 days because of warranty repair problems
  • Any issues the car is having are not the result of abuse by the owner

With these requirements, you’re essentially looking at anywhere from two to four repair attempts, depending on what the problem is with your car. But what is a lemon repair attempt? Does it differ from just putting your car in the shop?

What Is A Lemon Repair Attempt?

Generally speaking, you’ll need to take your car into the manufacturer’s authorized repair facility in order to be fixed — which usually means the car dealership you purchased the car from, or other car dealerships for your type of vehicle. Even if the dealership can’t remedy the problem, it’s still considered a repair attempt. But if you’re suffering from an intermittent problem that the dealership can’t pin down, you may need to take the car in more than two or four times.

Each time you take the car in, make sure you get paperwork that details the date you took the car in, what was wrong with it, the odometer reading, the diagnosis, what (if any) repairs were made, and the date you got your car back. Having this documentation will be incredibly important if you do need to pursue a lemon law case.

When Do Lemon Repair Attempts Have To Be Made?

The time and mileage limit imposed on California lemon law makes it seem as though you have to file your case before 18 months or 18,000 miles have passed. But this isn’t necessarily true.

As long as you can prove the issue with your car began within the 18 month/18,000 mile time frame, you may still be able to pursue a lemon law claim. This is most easily done if you have a repair shop bill or some other type of record that shows you were having problems with your car and states what the problems were. Therefore, if you took your car into the shop at 17,800 miles with a steering issue, and they tried to fix it, but you found yourself back in the shop at 18,500 miles with the exact same issue — you could still be eligible for compensation under the lemon law because your first repair attempt happened before the set time limit had passed.

What Compensation Am I Entitled?

If your car falls under the protection of the lemon law, you’re entitled to compensation in one of the following ways:

  • A replacement of the vehicle
  • A buyback of the faulty car minus depreciation
  • A cash settlement, which you can use to purchase a replacement vehicle

Car manufacturers will typically try to push you into an arbitration proceeding over the car, because they know they’re more likely to win. Once you get a lawyer involved, chances are, they’ll be willing to settle out of court and offer you the compensation you deserve.

Get The Lemon Law Help You Need

Here at Shainfeld Law, we have over 10 years of experience pursuing and winning lemon law cases in the state of California. We’re well-versed in the lemon law and know exactly what it takes to bring a successful case against a car manufacturer.

We offer a free consultation to help you better understand your unique car situation and how the lemon law can help you. Our website also has several resources that can aid you in your own research, like our lemon law FAQs and helpful videos.

If you think you’ve driven a lemon off the lot, contact us today for your free lemon law consultation. We’ll help you get the compensation you deserve so you can get back on the road.