By: Brett Shainfeld

The New Car Smell Is Spoiled

You’ve spent months researching, trying to figure out the perfect vehicle model for your needs. You’re inundated everywhere you go with the commercials and advertisements specifying new features, safety standards, and prices. After test drives and careful consideration, you finally decide to do it: you finally purchase a brand new vehicle.

But what happens when that ‘new car smell’ is spoiled by problem after problem, maintenance issues mounting on a vehicle that you’ve only just started making payments on? Surely there’s some sort of recourse when it feels as though you’ve gone to every length to have your vehicle running as it was promised, but are still stuck with your new car in the shop and having to coordinate rides to get to where you need to be.

If this is you, we have a few bits of news that are critical to your situation. First thing is first: you may very well have what we call a ‘lemon’, and while you may be familiar with this term in the colloquial sense, you may be unaware that there are actually legal underpinnings to what constitutes a lemon. Moreover, and most pertinent to your situation, is that for those with a vehicle that qualifies as a lemon in the state of California, there is actually legal recourse for you to take against a dealer and manufacturer. The crux of this recourse is what is known as the California lemon law buyback policy.

Before we get into the buyback policy and how it works, let’s first talk a bit about what is California Lemon Law.

Going to the Shop: How Repair Rights Affect the Process

You’re fed up. This new car you were sold by the dealer isn’t what you thought it would be, and you’re tired of having it in the repair shop. This is completely understandable, and just as you have the right to have a lemon vehicle repaired, the manufacturer has certain rights in the process to try to remedy the situation.

In order to identify whether a vehicle is a lemon or not, these conditions have to be met. First, the manufacturer or the dealer has to have made at least four or more unsuccessful attempts to correct the same defect under warranty. This means that if there’s a problem with the transmission, the manufacturer has the right to multiple opportunities to fix the problem before writing a vehicle off as a lemon. The second qualifying condition is that a defective vehicle has been out of service for a time frame that is greater than thirty days due to the repairs to the vehicle under the warranty.

For some, these conditions may seem like a steep bar. The good and bad news is that these are considered guidelines: there have been documented instances where vehicles that have met these conditions do not ultimately qualify as a lemon, as well as vehicles not meeting the criteria but being considered a lemon. This kind of quirkiness in the law demonstrates the necessity to look towards qualified legal counsel to walk you through the process and ensure you’re doing what you should be doing to get a vehicle replacement. An expert California lemon law buyback attorney can make or break your case.

So let’s say your vehicle has been deemed a lemon. What happens next?

California Lemon Law Buybacks: The Replacement Process

When a manufacturer has tried unsuccessfully to repair your vehicle after a reasonable number of attempts, the California lemon law buyback process can be initiated. When your vehicle qualifies for under California lemon buyback law, the manufacturer has one of two options. The first is to offer a replacement vehicle, and the second is to buyback to defective vehicle. Furthermore, you may be eligible to receive compensation for incidental damages due to defects related to the vehicle; it’s best to speak with a qualified lemon law attorney to find out more about this process.

In the event that the consumer and the manufacturer agree to replace the vehicle, the manufacturer is responsible for replacing with an alternate truck, car or SUV. The new vehicle should be identical to the defective vehicle (without the defect), including factors like options and trim. It should include all warranties as well, with full warranty period protection. There may be occasions in which a manufacturer is unable to provide the exact duplicate; in such an event, you should discuss this with the manufacturer to determine a solution that works for your needs.

California lemon buyback law also stipulates that should you opt for a replacement vehicle, that the manufacturer is required to cover all taxes, registration and relevant state motor vehicle information updates that accompany a traditional vehicle sale.

California Lemon Law Buyback Repurchase

If you’re unable to determine a replacement option, the manufacturer must pursue the California lemon law buyback policy and repurchase the vehicle from you. The amount is the entire purchase value of the vehicle that you paid, less the mileage. This amount should include all payments made, monthly and down, as well as amounts towards the remaining loan value. It should also cover transportation fees at the time of the purchase, as well as additional manufacturer parts installed by the dealership. If the parts are non-manufacturer, this is not included in the reimbursement; this, along with warranty specifics, places a premium on taking new cars to the dealership and avoiding aftermarket parts.

How To Determine The Mileage Offset

The calculation used to determine the mileage offset is fairly straightforward. The calculation takes the mileage on the car’s first attempt to repair the warranty defect, minus the mileage at the time the vehicle was purchased. The number is then divided by 120,000 and multiplied by the purchasing price of the vehicle. In the end, this value is reduced from the reimbursed amount. California lemon law also states that the manufacturer should cover incidentals, including rental vehicle charges, towing fees, and repair expenses.

Contact A Lemon Law Attorney Today

Getting dealt a lemon can be a challenging experience, but we’re here to help. Should you have any questions about lemon law in California, or California lemon buyback law and policies, feel free to reach out to Shainfeld Law offices and set up and consultation. We have decades of experience in consumer protection and are happy to provide guidance on whether or not you have a case and what your options are as a consumer.