What is California’s Lemon Law Presumption?

California’s Song-Beverly Act creates the state’s Lemon Law, under which a manufacturer must either buy back, replace, or provide a cash settlement to a consumer whose vehicle has experienced a defect that cannot be repaired within a reasonable number of attempts. The Lemon Law applies to new or used vehicles that are covered under the manufacturer’s original warranty and the repairs may be made by the manufacturer or its authorized dealer.

Unfortunately, the law does not define what is considered a reasonable number of repair attempts in order for a vehicle to qualify as a lemon. But the law does expressly create a Lemon Law presumption which states that if a car or motorcycle has been in the shop for repairs for a certain amount of time or number of times, there is a presumption that the vehicle is a “lemon.”

What are the requirements to qualify for Lemon Law presumption?

Under California’s Lemon Law presumption, a car or motorcycle may be considered a lemon if within 18 months or 18,000 miles after the purchase or lease, either one of the following occurs:

    1. The car or motorcycle has a serious safety defect which could cause death or serious injury, and the manufacturer has made two or more attempts to repair the vehicle, but the problem continues to exist; or
    1. The manufacturer or its authorized dealer / repair facility has attempted to fix the same defect four or more times but has been unable to fix it, or
    1. The car or motorcycle has been in the service shop for a total of 30 days or more for any number of defects covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.​

Either of these events will likely render a vehicle a lemon under California’s presumption. Once this presumption has been established, the manufacturer must rebut the presumption that the car or motorcycle is not a lemon. If it is unable to do that, then it must either purchase the vehicle, provide a replacement, or settle for a cash offer. The option is the consumer’s to choose and the manufacturer cannot force either solution on the consumer.

What if the Lemon Law presumption does not apply?

Even if the vehicle does not meet the Lemon Law presumption, it may still be a lemon. For instance, a vehicle may be deemed a lemon if it has a problem that significantly affects its value, safety, or usability, and the defect cannot be fixed after a reasonable amount of time. The vehicle may also be deemed a lemon if the manufacturer disregards its warranty obligations or makes no honest effort to correct the issue. Hence, even if your vehicle does not satisfy the precise criteria of the Lemon Law assumption, it is crucial to get legal advice from a knowledgeable lemon law expert to ascertain whether it falls under this category.

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