The lemon law was enacted by the California Legislature to provide consumers with specific protection from manufacturers of defective products. The California Lemon Law states that consumers of new or used vehicles are entitled to monetary compensation or a replacement vehicle if, after a reasonable number of repair attempts, the vehicle continues to fail to conform to the manufacturer’s express written car warranty.
There are many provisions under the lemon law that appear unclear and remain debatable issues for a judge or an arbitrator to decide; however, the law does make it clear that no consumer will have a successful lemon law claim if they purchase or lease a vehicle without an express written car warranty. Any consumer that files a lemon law claim is asking the legal authority to force a manufacturer to honor the car warranty provided at the time the vehicle was purchased or leased. Consumers should remember that even if their vehicle is experiencing a defect covered under the written car warranty, there is no guarantee that they will receive relief under the lemon law. The manufacturer is always afforded an opportunity to argue their side of the case and often claim that they have not received an adequate opportunity to fix the defect, the defect is not one that is covered under the car warranty, the defect is one that was caused by misuse or abuse by the consumer or the defect is not material because it does not affect the use, safety or value of the vehicle.
If the judge or arbitrator does determine that the consumer is entitled to relief under the lemon law, the consumer is able to choose the form of relief they would prefer. If the consumer desires monetary compensation, they will receive a refund of the money paid by the consumer for the vehicle and all original manufacturer installed parts. The consumer is not entitled to monetary compensation for any aftermarket car parts installed after the vehicle was purchased. Aftermarket car parts include items such as upgraded stereo systems, larger wheels and custom interior. The consumer is also entitled to a return of all money the consumer paid for the vehicle including the down payment, monthly loan payments and a payoff of the remaining vehicle loan amount. The manufacturer must also refund any expenses the consumer incurred during repair attempts, such as towing costs, rental car fees and costs for repairs.
Whether a consumer chooses monetary relief or elects instead for the manufacturer to provide a replacement vehicle, the manufacturer remains responsible for taxes, fees, costs for licensing and registration and all other incidental charges incurred during the repair process and lemon law litigation.
The California Lemon Law holds the manufacturer accountable for the defective products that they manufacture, but the law also provides that the consumer is responsible for any amount or value attributable to the consumer’s use of the vehicle. The lemon law provides a specific formula for determining this use value by offsetting the consumer’s relief for the mileage the vehicle was driven prior to the first car warranty repair attempt