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Most new vehicles come with an express manufacturer’s warranty that gives you certain rights if the vehicle does not perform as promised. These warranties are included in the price of your new car. Car dealers may also sell service contracts—sometimes called extended warranties—for both new and used vehicles. Some service contracts offer good protection at a reasonable price, while others have exclusions that make them almost worthless. Because warranty law is complex, you should consult with a lawyer or other expert who can best advise you of your rights under the particular circumstances of your case. For more information about vehicle warranties and service contracts check out the California Department of Insurance’s “Guide to Automobile Service Contracts.”


The California Lemon Law (Civ. Code, § 1793.22) protects you when your vehicle is defective and cannot be repaired after a “reasonable” number of attempts. In such instances, the manufacturer must either replace or repurchase the vehicle—whichever you prefer.

  • The Lemon Law applies to most vehicles purchased or leased in California that are still under a manufacturer’s new car warranty. Members of the Armed Forces, who are stationed in or are residents of California, are protected by the Lemon Law even if their vehicles were purchased or registered outside of California.
  • The Lemon Law also applies to used vehicles when they are still under a manufacturer’s new car warranty. Any remaining time left on the warranty protects the car’s new owner.
  • Lemon vehicles that arebought

    back by dealers and then resold must be identified as a “lemon law buyback” and have a “lemon” sticker on their door. When lemon buybacks are not properly disclosed and sold “as is,” the buyer may still have rights under the Lemon Law. For additional information, see Lemon Law Buyback Vehicles.

There are certain guidelines for determining when a “reasonable” number of repair attempts have been made before you may be entitled to a refund or replacement vehicle. For additional information, see the Department of Consumer Affairs publication entitled Lemon-aid for Consumers.

Even when the Lemon Law does not apply in your case, other state and federal laws may protect you. These include laws that prohibit deceptive practices and require vehicles to meet minimum safety standards. For complete advice concerning your legal rights, you should consult your own attorney.

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