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Steps to Take If You Think Your Car Is a Lemon

Law Offices of Kevin Faulk April 17, 2023

There’s no worse feeling than buying a new product and finding out that it doesn’t work the way it was advertised and you’ve just wasted your money. This is especially true when you’ve bought a new car only to find it’s defective, commonly referred to as having a “lemon.” According to a report put out by the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), some car makes and models are more likely to be lemons than others. For example, a car made by General Motors is 26 times more likely to result in a lemon law case than one made by Toyota. However, just because a car has an issue with it doesn’t automatically classify it as a lemon. There are certain steps you’ll need to take to determine if you're protected under the state’s Lemon Law. 

No one should have to go through this experience alone. If you’d like to learn more about how an attorney can help if your car is a lemon, reach out to our attorney at Law Offices of Kevin Faulk in Sunnyvale, California. We’re proud to assist clients in Sunnyvale and throughout the entire state. 

What Qualifies as a “Lemon”

Although many people casually use the term “lemon” to describe any car that doesn’t work well, it’s also used in a legal context with specific criteria that must be met. In order to be covered under the Lemon Law, the vehicle must have been purchased from a retail seller and have a manufacturer's warranty. Furthermore, the seller must have a reasonable opportunity to address and repair the defect. If the manufacturer cannot repair the problem in a reasonable number of attempts or a reasonable amount of time, you will have a viable lemon case. Only vehicles that come with a manufacturer warranty can be covered under the Lemon Law and this can include vehicles purchased for personal use, for use in a business setting, dealer-owned vehicles or demonstrators, or even the chassis or drivetrain of a motor home.  

Steps to Take If You Think Your Car Is a Lemon

No one ever wants to feel like they’ve just wasted thousands of dollars on a car that doesn’t run, so you’ll need to address the question, “What should I do if I think my car is a lemon?” There are specific steps to take when your car is a lemon. If these aren’t followed, you will likely not be eligible for compensation.  

The first thing you’ll need to do if you suspect your car is a lemon is to contact the manufacturer or dealer so they can try to fix the problem. To do this, you’ll need to file a warranty claim. State law only says that a “reasonable” number of repair attempts must be made and this is usually interpreted to be at least two, but can go as high as three or four. Typically, the more serious the issue, the fewer attempts the manufacturer will have to fix it. For example, if the defect could cause serious injury or death, you may be able to pursue a settlement after only two attempts at repair. 

During this time you should also retain all paperwork related to your purchase and repair attempts. This could include receipts, estimates, repair summaries, email correspondence, as well as any marketing materials such as brochures that were used to advertise the vehicle. Try to get everything in writing, including your request to have the car serviced which should be sent via mail or email.  

After it’s been determined that the defect cannot be repaired, the manufacturer may then offer you a settlement. However, it’s always a good idea to contact a local lemon law attorney before accepting any offer.  

How Your Attorney Can Help

Working with a qualified attorney during this process can be immensely helpful, although there’s technically nothing stated in the law that you need to work with one. That said, an experienced lawyer can help ensure you get reimbursed for the full value of your vehicle, including added costs like registration, taxes, and other incidental expenses such as having to rent a car while your vehicle was being repaired. All too often, manufacturers will try to low-ball you with their initial offer; your lawyer can help negotiate on your behalf and advocate for a higher payout.  

Seek Trusted Legal Guidance

Lemon Law can be confusing. If you’re in the Sunnyvale, California area or anywhere throughout the state of California, reach out to us at Law Offices of Kevin Faulk to learn more about the state’s Lemon Law and how it can work for you