Yellow lemon beside gavel

As you probably know, California’s lemon law doesn’t regulate sales of the popular yellow (and very sour) citrus fruit. “Lemon” is a slang term that originally meant (back in the 1920’s) any “worthless item.” Now it refers primarily to defective and problem-plagued new cars and used cars.

California’s lemon law was enacted by the Sacramento Legislature in 1970. It imposes rules and requirements designed to ensure that manufacturers and retailers honor the warranties that accompany the consumer products they sell. It has several provisions that apply specifically to motor vehicles, and which require that manufacturers offer “lemon law buybacks” for cars that they cannot properly and promptly repair.

This page summarizes the rules of the California’s lemon law statute (i.e., the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, California Civil Code Sections 1790 to 1795.8). It will point out what the lemon law covers, and what it doesn’t, set forth the lemon law’s basic rules, and then answer several common lemon law questions.

What the Lemon Law Does Not Cover

Because the primary goal of California’s lemon law is to force car dealerships and manufacturers to make good on their warranties, it leaves out and does not cover many common automobile-related problems. In particular, it doesn’t cover car dealership fraud. So if you think that a car dealership lied to you, failed to disclose important information about your vehicle, or otherwise cheated you, then check this site’s car dealer fraud and accident-damaged used cars pages.

The lemon law also imposes no requirements governing the repossession of automobiles. So if your complaint has to do with an illegal or improper repossession, check this site’s repossession information page.

The California Lemon Law’s Rules

Like all U.S. lemon law statutes, the first and most basic requirement of the California’s lemon law is that it applies only to consumer products purchased or leased with a warranty. The warranty can be express or implied by law, it can be short or long, but the car, truck, SUV, or other product must have been sold or leased with a warranty in order for the lemon law to apply.

Most car dealers offer what they call “extended warranties” with their new and used cars. However, under California’s lemon law these so-called “warranties” are not warranties at all, but what the statute refers to as “service contracts.” Service contracts do not qualify for coverage under the rules discussed on this Website. As a rule of thumb, if you paid for the “warranty” it is probably a service contract and not covered by the lemon law. That being said, there are exceptions to this general rule. To find out whether a warranty that you paid for qualifies under California’s lemon law, it is best to call an experienced lemon law attorney. Be prepared to email the attorney the entire contract so that he or she can review all of its terms.

Presuming that your car, truck, or SUV was sold with a warranty, the lemon law requires that necessary warranty repairs be performed promptly. No single repair attempt can take more than 30 days, unless the delays are caused by circumstances beyond the manufacturer’s control.

The lemon law also requires that warranty repairs be performed correctly. Defects that “substantially impairs the use, value, or safety” of an automobile must be repaired within a “reasonable number of attempts.” If the manufacturer is unable to do so, then it must promptly offer a “lemon law buyback.”

A lemon law buyback can be either a full refund of the automobile’s purchase price (less certain deductions permitted by the statute) or a replacement of the vehicle with another materially identical car, truck, or SUV. That being said, it is important to remember that neither you nor the manufacturer can force the other to offer a replacement (as opposed to a repurchase). Either of you can elect the repurchase option, so replacements are essentially voluntary.

These are the essential and basic rules of California’s lemon law. Although they may sound straightforward, they give rise to a number of issues in particular cases. Keep reading to find the answers to the most commonly-asked lemon law questions.

If you would rather call an expert lemon law attorney to discuss your questions, the Vachon Law Firm offers free consultations and will be happy to answer all of your questions. We can be reached at 1-855-4-LEMON-LAW (1-855-453-6665). You can also email us your questions.

Questions About the California Lemon Law

Below are the most-commonly asked questions about the California lemon law, its rules, and its buyback requirement. Click on the links to find the answers to your questions.

If you have any questions not addressed above, please email them to us. We will respond, and probably update this site to answer your question for other consumers.

Want to Read the Text of the Lemon Law Statute?

For lawyers, and other persons with legal training, who want to read the entire text of California’s lemon law statute, this cite contains a complete, indexed version of the California lemon law statute, in which all of the section references are hyperlinks to the cited text.

Please be advised that the lemon law text page is included in this site only for reference by persons with legal training. It is recommended that non-lawyers review this page, and its lemon law questions links, to search for answers to their lemon law questions. Click here for a list of other important consumer law legal resources.

Want to Talk to a Lemon Law Attorney?

Do you have questions that were not answered by this site? Do you think you might have a case? If you would like to talk to a lemon law expert, the Vachon Law Firm offers free consultations in lemon law cases. Call us today at 1-855-4-LEMON-LAW (1-855-453-6665) to discuss your legal options. We also respond to email inquiries.

We will give you an honest, objective assessment of your legal rights. If you have a case, we will tell you. If you don’t, we will tell you that too.

Find out about your California lemon law rights today!