The Lemon Law Process

Young businessman pushing his car with empty fuel tank, shot with a tilt and shift lens

If the dealer/manufacturer fails to repair your vehicle to meet the manufacturer’s warranty after a reasonable number of repair attempts, it’s a “lemon” and you are entitled to a refund or a replacement.   If your vehicle does not actually qualify as a lemon but has had warranty covered problems that you believe affect its value, you may be entitled to receive a cash settlement for the diminished value.

In California, the lemon laws apply to new or used, purchased or leased vehicles that are sold with a written warranty. Protections include the following remedies:

Refund / Lemon Buyback

If you purchased your vehicle, your refund will consist of:

  • Your monthly payments and down payment;
  • Collateral charges, such as sales tax, finance charges, the first-year registration and service contracts provided by the manufacturer;
  • Incidental and consequential expenses that are related to the defect that resulted in the vehicle qualifying as a lemon, such as rental car, towing, etc.; and
  • Payment of your loan balance.

If you leased your vehicle, your refund will consist of:

  • Your lease payments and down payment;
  • Collateral charges, such as sales tax, finance charges, the first-year registration and service contracts provided by the manufacturer;
  • Incidental and consequential expenses that are related to the defect that resulted in the vehicle qualifying as a lemon, such as rental car, towing, etc.; and
  • Payment of any remaining lease obligations.

Replacement Vehicle

If you choose to receive a replacement vehicle, the replacement must:

  • Be substantially identical to your vehicle at the time you purchased or leased it;
  • Include the same service contract;
  • Include any factory or dealer options that came with the original vehicle;
  • Reimburse you any incidental and consequential expenses that are related to the defect that resulted in the vehicle qualifying as a lemon, such as rental car, towing, etc.; and
  • Include any sales tax, license and/or registration fees for the replacement vehicle.

 *The balance of your finance or lease term will remain with the replacement vehicle.  It is advised that you learn how your lender will deal with your existing loan or lease before choosing this option. They may require a new loan with different terms. 

*Any difference in price between the original and replacement vehicle is your responsibility.

Mileage Offset

The manufacturer is entitled to an offset for the time you drove your vehicle ‘trouble-free.’  That offset is calculated by multiplying the purchase price by the mileage at the time of the first warranty repair for the problem that rendered it a lemon (unless there is a breach of the implied warranty then there is zero offset) and dividing that amount by 120,000 (average life expectancy of a vehicle).

For example:

  • Price paid by consumer for the vehicle………………………………..$30,000
  • Miles driven by consumer at first repair attempt………………………5,000
  • ($30,000 x 5,000) / 120,000 = $1,250

In this case, the mileage offset would be $1,250.

The calculator below will show what your mileage offset could be.

If your vehicle is not actually a “lemon”, you may still be entitled to receive cash compensation for its diminished value as a result of its problems.  This is referred to as a “cash and keep settlement.”  You will get cash for your trouble, but you will keep your vehicle.  Usually this occurs when you have experienced problems, but the problems are not considered “substantial impairments” to use, value or safety.

How much did you pay for your vehicle?

How miles were on the vehicle when it was designated to be a lemon?

Your Milage Offset Value is:

Attorney’s Fees and Costs

With the Law Offices of Patrea Bullock, you will not pay any legal fees. We use the state and federal lemon laws to require the manufacturers to pay your reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.  This allows all consumers to seek justice.