How And When To Use Your Lemon Law Rights

The “lemon law” was originally created to protect consumers from big ticket items that had a problem, and these days is almost exclusively limited to vehicles like cars, trucks and SUVs. For example, a car is considered a “lemon” under the California Lemon Law if it has been repaired four times and the defect or problem has not been resolved or fixed within the period of 18 months or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first. Using the word “lemon” this way has most likely become increasingly popular due to the many companies and “slightly south of honest” car sales folks selling faulty products. Buying a car is not like buying a hair dryer, since you cannot return it to the store for a refund if you do not like it, or if it has a manufacturing defect. Technically, your newly purchased car is only considered a lemon if you have given proper attention to all of its problems, if all efforts to fix these problems have been exhausted, and if the manufacturer has been given the opportunity to try and fix the problem but cannot. If it seems your car is in the repair shop time and time again for the same repair, you may be the owner of a real lemon. If that is the case, you have rights as well as some responsibilities to deploy those rights.

The descriptive term “lemon” applies equally to a defective or malfunctioning car as to a citrus fruit. Basically, the California Lemon Law holds the manufacturer of a car responsible for the proper and satisfactory functioning of the car while it is under its warranty period. This also assumes that the owner of the car exercised good judgment and care of everything that would logically be expected of the car owner.

Does the car warranty matter? Of course. The repair is covered under the vehicle warranty or extended warranty, but it’s always in the shop. In many states, arbitration is used to solve problems when a car still under warranty turns out to be a lemon. If the vehicle is new, it should come with a warranty that includes a money-back option. This may be something to note to yourself next time you are shopping for a new car, since shopping for the right warranty is just as important as the car and the price you negotiate.

You must report the defect within a reasonable timeframe, or before the warranty expires. Report it to the dealer and do it in writing, and make sure you save your copy. If it malfunctions while under warranty, the manufacturer is held liable for repairs. Basically, California’s Lemon Law, sometimes also known as Consumer Warranty Law, specifies that the manufacturer carry a high degree of responsibility for sold products.

Almost every state has passed a lemon law, a statute that exists to backup the manufacturer’s written warranty that comes with the vehicle. The degree of liability and responsibility varies widely from state to state, so make sure you know what the lemon law is in your state.

The bottom line is that you as the purchaser of the vehicle have responsibilities for proper maintenance of the vehicle, which hopefully you would do anyway. But assuming you have done that and still have what is termed a “chronic” problem with the vehicle, you have rights, and it is to your benefit to know what those rights are. Jon is a computer engineer who maintains web sites on a variety of topics based on his knowledge and experience. You can read more about the lemon law and your rights at his web site at


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