What qualifies for the California Lemon Law?

How Does a Car Qualify for the Lemon Law?

If you purchased a defective car, truck, SUV, RV or other vehicle that spends more time with a mechanic than it does with you, we understand how frustrating that can be. After your third or fourth repair attempt, you may have realized that you bought a lemon. So, what qualifies for the California lemon law?

Fortunately, California has a strong lemon law that looks favorably on consumers as long as you can prove that the vehicle’s defect is substantial, and you’ve made exhaustive attempts to get it repaired. The good news is that you don’t have to get stuck with a clunker. You could have a legal remedy.

What Falls Under the Lemon Law?

There are certain thresholds you must meet to qualify for a California lemon law claim. These have to do with the nature of your vehicle’s defect and whether you’ve made adequate attempts to get your car, truck, or SUV fixed. If you face issues beyond the scope of lemon laws, such as a collision, consider consulting a truck accident lawyer to explore your legal options.

To prevail under the California lemon law, you must:

  • show that the vehicle defect compromises the use, value or safety of your vehicle
  • make “reasonable attempts” to have a dealership repair the defect.


The types of things that could fall under “compromised use” of a vehicle include problems with acceleration, mirrors, seats, windows, and other things that make using the vehicle difficult or prohibitive.


The types of things that could fall under “compromised value” of a vehicle include dents, significant paint scratches, torn seats, stained or missing carpet, bent grill or hood, and other things that would diminish a vehicle’s resale value.


The types of things that could fall under “compromised safety” of a vehicle include faulty steering, malfunctioning airbags, defective brakes, broken headlights, and other things that make your vehicle unsafe to drive. If you’ve experienced accidents due to these issues, consulting a rear end collision lawyer might be a good step to ensure your rights are protected.

If you have any of these types of problems, a skilled and experienced lemon law attorney at Neale & Fhima can help. We fight hard to get our clients the justice they deserve, and as a trusted lemon law lawyer, we have a record of winning.

Neale & Fhima has a 99% success rate in lemon law cases.

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (California Civil Code, beginning at section 1790) codifies the California Lemon Law. Under the Act, if you purchase a defective vehicle, you are legally entitled to a refund, or the vehicle can be replaced at the manufacturer’s expense. However, you must prove that it’s a lemon according to legal guidelines. Some defects may not qualify for a lemon law claim. First, you must have made a reasonable number of attempts to have your vehicle repaired. If it turns out that you do have a lemon, you can:

  1. have the manufacturer repurchase your vehicle,
  2. have the manufacturer replace your vehicle, or
  3. in some cases, negotiate a cash settlement with the automaker.

Too many times, consumers worry that their lemon law claim may not be valid because the facts of their case do not exactly match the legal jargon in the law. But a skilled lemon law attorney may be aware of ways that your situation could still qualify under the Song-Beverly Act. If your car has had several repairs for the same problem, call us at 888-407-2955 to find out how we can help.


Remember that there’s a four-year statute of limitations in California for lemon law claims. If you wait too long, you may miss your window of opportunity and risk having your case dismissed. Don’t put off talking to a lawyer if you think you own a lemon.

Possible Defects That Could Give Rise to a Lemon Law Claim

It is important to note that the general criteria for a valid lemon law claim are broad. There are many types of repair problems that could give rise to a valid claim because they are considered a “substantial defect.” Some of the more common substantial defects include:

  • Engine failure
  • Problems with steering
  • Malfunctions with airbags
  • Problems with brakes and/or anti-lock brakes
  • Poor acceleration
  • Fuel gauges and speedometer don’t work
  • Electrical issues
  • Battery dies regularly, or drains irregularly
  • Door locks don’t work
  • Transmission does not shift properly

There are also many other issues with your vehicle that could qualify for lemon law protection. For example, if you live in hot Southern California, a good lemon law attorney could possibly make a case that an air conditioner that does not work well is a substantial defect. Or, you may have a problem with the electrical system that affects the headlights or brake lights. This could easily be considered a serious safety hazard. Problems that affect the value of the car also may qualify for protection. If you’ve been in an accident and are facing such issues, consulting an experienced car accident attorney is crucial. A common problem that arises is one with the car’s paint job. If it is poor, it will certainly affect resale value, so this problem could qualify.

Of course, there are some flaws that would not be considered a substantial defect and do not receive lemon law protection, such as a broken CD player or a missing knob on the radio. The lemon law also does not apply to modified or misused vehicles or to private-party sales. To learn more about what is not covered under the lemon law, read here.

What Should You Do If You Think You Have a Lemon?

First, you should talk to a lemon law lawyer to understand your legal rights. Car manufacturers usually fight lemon law claims, so getting a tough and skilled attorney is important. There are some other things to do if you think you have a serious defect that may qualify for a lemon law claim:

  • Keep copies of all repair orders; make sure they clearly state the problems the mechanic identified and what steps were taken to repair the problems.
  • Keep a file at home — do not rely on the auto dealer to handle your lemon law paperwork.
  • Talk to a lemon law attorney before pursuing a vehicle manufacturer’s arbitration program for defective cars and trucks. The outcome of arbitration could damage your chances of getting proper compensation under the state lemon law.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) offers a helpful California Lemon Law Q & A that may answer some of your questions. The Los Angeles County Consumer and Business Affairs office also provides significant lemon law details. California has a very consumer-friendly lemon law, and it applies to new, leased, and some used vehicles. If you think you were deceived by the dealership about repairs made to your car before it was sold to you, there could be a valid lemon law claim as well.

Used Vehicles and the Lemon Law

California’s lemon law covers some used vehicles as well as new and leased vehicles. If you own a used vehicle, you will need one of three specific warranties to pursue a successful lemon law claim:

  • a transferred new car warranty
  • a certified pre-owned warranty
  • lemon law buyback warranty.

The California Attorney General’s office explains the lemon law in greater detail here. If you’re not sure whether your used vehicle qualifies for a lemon law claim, contact Neale & Fhima for legal advice.

Lemon Law Buyback Vehicles

Lemon vehicles that are bought back by dealers and then resold must be identified as a “lemon law buyback” and have a “lemon” sticker on the door. If lemon buyback cars, SUVs, RVs, and trucks are not properly disclosed and sold “as is,” the buyer may still have rights under the California lemon law for used cars. For additional information, see Lemon Law Buyback Vehicles. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) also publishes a Car Buyers Bill of Rights that’s worth reviewing.

If you feel you’ve been treated unethically by a car dealership who sold you a bad car, you can report a dispute you have with a dealer by contacting the California DMV Investigations Offices, or file a complaint online by using the DMV Record of Complaint Form.

Talk to A Lemon Law Attorney Now

Not every new car, truck or SUV in California is reliable. Some of them have serious defects that affect use, value and/or safety. If you have been taking your new vehicle under factory warranty into the dealership for regular repairs, you may have a valid lemon law claim. Neale & Fhima has a reputation for winning lemon law cases, and we fight hard for our clients’ rights. Our attorneys are tough negotiators and aggressive litigators.

Here are a few of the reasons you should choose us as your attorney:

  • Years of Experience. Our attorneys have more than 40 years of combined experience representing clients throughout California.
  • Our Lawyers Win Cases. Neale & Fhima enjoys a 99% success rate. We think this says a lot about the skill of our attorneys. While we cannot guarantee the outcome of any particular case, you can take comfort in knowing your claim is being handled by lemon law lawyers who have a track record of success.
  • We Know the Law.California’s lemon law is a fine example of how the state legislature can empower consumers. When it comes to clarity, however, the text of the statute leaves much to be desired. Our attorneys understand the quirks of the statute, as well as the many court opinions interpreting it. We put this knowledge to work for you.
  • No Surprises. A handful of manufacturers control most of the U.S. auto market. We repeatedly go up against these same companies. This allows us to anticipate how they will respond to claims involving specific models and mechanical defects. Our attorneys will share how these insights can impact your claim, so you are never in the dark about what to expect.

To learn more about our outstanding legal team, you can see our attorney bios here. You can also read testimonials from our satisfied clients. CALL US TODAY AT 888-407-2955 FOR A FREE CONSULTATION. WE CAN GET STARTED ON YOUR LEMON LAW CLAIM RIGHT AWAY!

Attorney Aaron Fhima

Aaron Fhima, California attorneyAaron Fhima is a trial attorney who has secured numerous settlements and verdicts against large corporations and some of the largest auto manufacturers in the world. Representing consumers and injury victims throughout the state of California, Aaron’s practice areas include personal injury, and lemon law litigation. Aaron has a long record of success taking on large defense firms; and he doesn’t hesitate to take cases to trial when necessary to enforce his clients’ rights. [ Attorney Bio ]