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A “lemon car” describes a California vehicle that you purchased that has a manufacturing defect that cannot be repaired, and which has resulted in reducing the usability, safety, or value of the car. 

Under the California lemon law, it is the car manufacturer’s responsibility to make things right if your vehicle qualifies as a lemon. 

This page will provide you with a simple overview of the lemon law requirements, criteria, and process in California. 

For more information regarding your own vehicle, be sure to contact legal counsel or your state’s consumer’s affairs office. 

What is the California Lemon Law?

The California lemon law sets requirements for car manufacturers to refund or replace vehicles that have safety or quality defects that cannot be repaired. 

If your vehicle qualifies, you can typically choose to either:

  • Have the vehicle replaced with a new one. 
  • Be refunded for the purchase of the lemon. 

The law applies to new, used, and leased vehicles. 

Does lemon law apply to used cars in California?

In California, used vehicles are covered as long as they are still under the manufacturer’s original warranty. 

Lemon Law Criteria in California

In order to qualify for California’s lemon law, the vehicle must meet the following criteria:

  • 4 failed repair attempts, out-of-service for 30 days, or 2 failed repairs for an issue likely to result in death or serious injury
  • Issues occur within 18 months or 18,000 miles of purchase or the issue persists for a reasonable number of repair attempts for the period of the warranty. 

What to Do if Your Car is a Lemon in California

If you believe you’ve purchased a lemon car in California, the process will go something like this:

  1. Make the necessary attempts to have the issue repaired under the manufacturer’s warranty. 
  2. Keep records and documentation of all service, communication, and estimates from the dealer, manufacturer, or other authorized agent. 
  3. If you believe the vehicle meets the criteria of a lemon, notify the manufacturer to begin the lemon-law remedy process. 

You’ll need to send a written notice to the manufacturer via the address found in your owner’s manual. 

For official information or legal advice pertaining to your specific circumstances, please contact your attorney or the California consumer protection agency.