How Do You Know When a Car is a Lemon?

| Updated on February 28, 2024

Have you heard a friend or family member refer to their car or another product as a “lemon?” Perhaps you heard someone say that they bought a car that was a lemon from the local car dealership. How do you know if a car is a lemon? If you discover that the car that you just purchased is a lemon, you may think that there is nothing that you can do about the situation. The good news is that this belief is probably not true. If you think that you do have legal recourse, do you know how to initiate a Lemon Law claim? If you believe that you may have a lemon law claim, speaking to an experienced Lemon Law attorney can help you to get the action that you want to recover damages on a possible lemon law claim. 

Are There Laws That Protect Consumers Who Purchase a Car that is a Lemon? 

Yes, there are protections for consumers who purchase a vehicle that is a lemon. The State of California attempted to pass the first Lemon Law. The problem with the proposed law was that there was such strong opposition from automobile manufacturers and car dealers that the law failed to pass in California.  

The next year, the State of Connecticut passed the first statutes that were considered Lemon Laws. The various other states soon followed by successfully passing their own Lemon Laws. The State of California Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act offers protection for California residents and those who purchase a lemon automobile or other lemon product. 

Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act 

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, found in Chapter 1790 to 1795.8 of the California Civil Code provides several protections for consumers, including for those who purchase certain motor vehicles. The laws provide many of the same types of protections that are provided under the lemon laws for new cars in other states.  

People who live in California or who purchase a used car in California may believe that they have to accept the fact that they purchased a lemon and try to deal with the seller on their own without an attorney. The surprising fact is that the State of California offers protections for some used car owners. California is one of only a few states whose lemon laws may also cover used cars in its statutes and consumer protections.  

Another surprising fact for some people is the fact that the statutes do not simply cover cars. Lemon may also be a truck, an SUV, an RV, or a truck. Do you have a vehicle that you believe is a lemon that you purchased in California? Trust in the expertise of an experienced lemon law attorney who may be able to help you pursue a remedy under the Song-Beverly Consumer Protection Act.  

Some protections that are offered by the state lemon laws in California include: 

  • Every sale of retail goods within the State of California is protected by certain implied warranties 
  • There are strict limitations on how the implied warranties are permitted to be disclaimed 
  • Establishes that there is possible relief available when individuals make purchases of goods that are damaged because of a failure to abide by any obligation expressly described under the statutes or under implied or express warranties 

What does this mean for consumers? It means that when you purchase a car that is covered under the Song-Beverly Consumer Protection Act that certain implied warranties come with that purchase. Some automobile dealers and manufacturers may attempt to provide a long list of ways that the warranties may be disclaimed. The state law strictly limits the reasons that there may be disclaimers on any express warranty or an implied warranty. The potential relief for failure to comply with the laws or consumer warranties includes compensation for damages, civil penalties, equitable relief, and the cost and expense of litigation, which includes attorney fees. 

Do not think that you have to worry about your motor vehicle purchase that turned out to be a lemon. You have the opportunity to have an attorney work to bring a claim on your behalf if you followed all the required steps. The first step that you must follow when you discover that you bought a new car that is considered a lemon is that the car must have had at least two repair attempts to repair a defect that can potentially cause a serious injury or a death if you drive the car. You must also have brought the car back to the dealership a minimum of four times to attempt to get a remedy for the same defect, and your car must have been at the vehicle dealership for repairs of the same issue for a minimum of 30 days. 

Talk to an experienced lawyer if your car meets these qualifications, and even if it does not meet these qualifications, you may still have a valid claim.  

Magnuson Moss Act 

The Magnuson Moss Act is a federal act that requires warrantors of consumer products, including vehicles covered under this law, to provide every consumer with detailed information about the warranty coverage. The act also requires that warrantors state whether the warranty is either a full warranty or a limited warranty. The federal laws also require that warrantors provide certain required information about the warranty to the consumer in an easy-to-read document.  

Although there are several requirements for warrantors to comply with under this comprehensive act, there are some things that are not required under federal law. There is no requirement for a business to provide a written warranty. Once a business does decide to provide a written warranty, it must comply with the terms specified in the act. It is important to understand that there is no coverage for oral warranties, and it does not apply to any warranty on any services.  

Are you confused, and still not sure if your vehicle is covered under Lemon Laws? Reach out to an attorney who has the knowledge and expertise to help you understand how lemon laws work and to determine if you may have a case under lemon law statutes.  

How Do I Know if My Car is a Lemon? 

There are specific statutes under the Song-Beverly Act and the Magnuson Moss Act that state the details of lemon laws and that offer protections for consumers. How do you know if your vehicle is a lemon? It is important to know that you may not immediately know that the vehicle that you purchased is a lemon. So, do not feel bad if you purchased a lemon and are having issues with your vehicle. 

You may discover that the car or other vehicle that you want to purchase is a lemon before you make the purchase. The CarFax report provides a detailed history of the vehicle. CarFax indicates that the definition of what is considered to be a substantial defect and a reasonable amount of time is considered on a case-by-case basis.  

Some examples of defects that may be covered under lemon laws include a dead engine, a vehicle that has faulty brakes or defective steering, or a vehicle that has a damaged transmission. Certain other parts of a car that are built-in may be covered under Lemon Laws. Make sure that you understand whether the GPS system, the radio, or the stereo system is covered under the lemon laws of your state.  

Did you purchase a used car or other vehicle and think that you may have purchased a lemon? Perhaps you failed to walk around the vehicle and check it thoroughly because you were excited about buying the new vehicle. Do you now notice that there are mismatched parts or panels, intermittent electrical problems, or a cracked dashboard? Some other indications that you may have purchased a lemon are if there is grease or corrosion around the radiator, the engine, or the battery. Perhaps you discovered melted wires or that the vehicle leaks fluids. You may have purchased a lemon vehicle and likely want to speak with an attorney who has experience with pursuing Lemon Law claims for their clients.  

How Can I Avoid Purchasing a Vehicle that is a Lemon? 

Many people prefer to purchase their new car or another type of vehicle that is covered under the Lemon Laws in person. Purchasing a vehicle in person provides you with the opportunity to thoroughly check the car for any visible defects or signs that it may be a lemon. It allows you to get answers to any questions that you have and to receive an explanation for anything that you see that you think may be evidence of a defect or damage that indicates that it is possibly a lemon.  

Some people still prefer to purchase their vehicle online, finding this a convenient way to buy a new car. Make sure that you thoroughly check the vehicle immediately after you receive it to check for any evidence of the defect or other signs of problems that may indicate that the vehicle is a lemon.  

Make sure that you have a proper warranty and that you understand the warranty. The content that is contained in this act specifically requires that every vehicle has a title that indicates whether it has a “full” warranty or a “limited” warranty. A full warranty means that the car meets the standards of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act for comprehensive warranty coverage. Examples of a full warranty include that warranty service is provided free of charge, and that the warrantor does not have limitations on the duration of implied warranties.  

A limited warranty means that the warranty does not meet at least one of the standards of the Act and that coverage is less than “full” coverage. Examples of an implied warranty include that if the statements that describe the full warranty are not true for your vehicle purchase, then the warranty is an implied warranty. 

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provides consumers with a copy and detailed explanation of the Lemon Law Buybacks and Warranty Returns. The civil codes require that vehicle manufacturer are required to either replace a new motor vehicle or make restitution to a consumer if the vehicle does not conform to applicable warranties even after making a “reasonable” number of attempts to repair the vehicle. Make sure that you check the recall list to determine if the car that you purchased or plan to purchase has any factory faults. You should check the recall list to see the vehicles listed, whether you plan to purchase a new car or a used vehicle. 

The Department of Motor Vehicles is required to identify Lemon Law buybacks and warranty returns on title documents. The branded certificate of title and registration serves as notification to prospective buyers that the car, SUV, truck, or another vehicle that is covered by Lemon Law was previously returned to its manufacturer because the vehicle did not conform to the applicable warranties. 

Check the reliability record of any used vehicle before making the purchase. Walk around the car while checking for dents, gaps between the body panels, broken or missing parts, and paint overspray on trim. Check the tires, the interior of the car, the steering, suspension, and tailpipe. Consumer Reports also remind consumers to check under the hood before purchasing a used car.  

Read the window sticker, which the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires to be placed on every used vehicle. The Buyer’s Guide must contain information that indicates whether the car is being sold “as is” or if it is being sold with a warranty, along with what percentage of repair costs, if any, that the dealer is required to pay. 

Also Read: Buying the Right Used Vehicle

What Can a Lemon Law Attorney Do for Me? 

Many consumers often do not fully understand lemon law terms or statutes and whether their vehicle is covered under lemon law statutes. Lemon Laws are designed to rigorously protect consumers. A Lemon Law attorney also rigorously works to protect your rights under state and federal lemon laws. The attorney helps you to understand the laws and how each of the laws may apply to you and the lemon vehicle purchase that you made when you bought your car. 

Let a lemon law attorney do the hard work of protecting your rights and seeking remedies that you are afforded under both state and federal lemon laws. There are some things that you should do to help your case when you speak to an experienced lemon law attorney. Make sure that you keep all of your service records. Keep copies of all correspondence that you have with representatives of the vehicle manufacturer or the car dealer. Keep all of your receipts and provide them to your attorney. If you do not have this type of documentation, an attorney that represents clients who have potential lemon law claims can help you by getting the information for you or showing you how to get it.

Follow all requirements that consumers have to abide by under the lemon law protections. This includes following the requirements under both state and federal laws. Provide your attorney with any other information or documentation that you may have or that your skilled lemon law attorney may ask you to provide for your claim. 

Your attorney has the expertise to seek and obtain the remedies that are afforded to consumers under the lemon laws. Trust your attorney to see how you can get the best possible relief, such as the manufacturer repurchasing the vehicle, having the manufacturer replace the vehicle, or negotiating a cash settlement with the manufacturer of your vehicle. 

You are not alone if you have a vehicle that you believe is a lemon. Autolist reveals that approximately 150,000 motor vehicles qualify as “lemons” every year. Some new ways of purchasing vehicles, such as purchasing a car or other types of motor vehicle online, may result in the individual purchasing a vehicle that is considered to be a lemon. We understand that things happen that are beyond the expectations of the consumer who purchases a new or used vehicle in good faith. Reach out to an attorney who knows the law, including lemon laws, who will fight for you and your rights as a consumer.

You do not have to fight manufacturers of vehicles or car dealers who knowingly or unknowingly violate state or federal lemon laws. Our attorneys know how to win, which is why we have a 99 percent success rate. Do not wait another day to learn about your rights and how you may be able to obtain relief under the lemon laws. We work for you. We understand the frustration and stress that go along with purchasing a lemon. Contact us today to learn more about how we may be able to help you so that you can obtain the remedies that you are entitled to under the Lemon Law. Contact us to protect your rights and to receive a free initial consultation. Our friendly staff will make sure that you know all your rights and how to move forward with your case. 

Alan Biles

Alan Biles is a frequent traveller and also loves capturing every beautiful moment in his camera. He also enjoys working in the Automobile field, and this reflects in his writing. Currently, he is working as a freelance writer for multiple websites related to travel and automobiles. He loves updating about his excursions on his Instagram.

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