How Long Does a Lemon Law Case Take?

Buying a used car can be a smart and economical way to find a reliable vehicle. However, the excitement of your purchase can quickly turn into frustration if your used car becomes a “lemon” plagued by constant problems. Thankfully, California residents have valuable protection through the California Lemon Law, offering recourse against defective used vehicles under specific circumstances. This comprehensive guide delves into the intricacies of the California Lemon Law for used cars, empowering you to understand your rights and navigate the process effectively.

Understanding the California Lemon Law for Used Cars:

Wondering what is lemon law for cars? The California Lemon Law applies to used cars that meet the following criteria:

  • Warranty Coverage: The used car must be covered under either the manufacturer’s original warranty or a dealer warranty (typically 30-90 days) when the problems arise. This ensures that the vehicle has some level of protection against defects.
  • Significant Defects: The defects must be substantial enough to impact the car’s use, value, or safety significantly. This goes beyond minor inconveniences and encompasses issues that genuinely hinder your ability to safely enjoy and operate the vehicle.
  • Reasonable Repair Attempts: The manufacturer or dealer must have had a “reasonable” number of attempts to repair the covered defects without success. This ensures that the dealer or manufacturer has been given a fair chance to rectify the problem before the Lemon Law takes effect.

Determining “Reasonable” Repair Attempts:

The definition of a “reasonable” number of repair attempts depends on the severity of the issue and the specific circumstances of your situation:

  • 1-2 Attempts for Serious Safety Defects: For critical issues like brake failure or faulty airbags, even a single unsuccessful repair attempt might be considered unreasonable due to the inherent safety risk involved.
  • 2 or More Repeated Repairs: If the same non-safety defect keeps recurring in your used car and poses a potential safety hazard if ignored, exceeding two repair attempts could be considered unreasonable.
  • 4 or More Repairs for Different Issues: Generally, four or more repair attempts for various issues within the warranty period might qualify for non-safety defects. However, the nature and complexity of the repairs also play a role in determining reasonableness.
  • 30 Days Out of Service: If your used car spends a cumulative total of 30 days in the shop for repairs within the warranty period due to recurring issues, it could be considered a lemon under the law.

Your Options Under the California Lemon Law:

If your used car meets the above criteria, you may be entitled to the following remedies:

  • Replacement: The manufacturer may be required to replace your used car with a comparable model of the same year or newer. This allows you to obtain a functioning, reliable vehicle.
  • Refund: You may be eligible for a full refund of the purchase price, including sales tax, license fees, and registration costs, minus a reasonable deduction for mileage driven. This option provides financial compensation for your troubled purchase.
  • Cash Settlement: You can negotiate a cash settlement agreement with the manufacturer to resolve the issue without going through the formal court process. This can be a faster and less confrontational approach.

Seeking Legal Guidance:

Navigating the complexities of the California Lemon Law can be challenging, especially for first-timers. Consulting with a qualified California Lemon Law attorney is highly recommended for the following reasons:

  • Expertise and Experience: Lemon Law attorneys possess in-depth knowledge of the law and its application in various scenarios. They can assess your situation, determine eligibility, and effectively guide you through the process.
  • Case Building and Evidence Collection: Having an attorney on your side ensures proper documentation, evidence gathering, and communication with the manufacturer or dealer, which is crucial for building a strong case.
  • Negotiation and Representation: Legal representation provides expert negotiation skills during settlements or litigation, maximizing your chances of a successful outcome.

Important Time Limits:

It’s crucial to act promptly if you believe your used car qualifies under the Lemon Law. Strict time limits apply for filing a claim, typically within one year from the warranty expiration or two years from the date of purchase. Failing to meet these deadlines can significantly impact your ability to seek legal recourse.

Maintaining Documentation:

Throughout the process, maintaining thorough records of your case can significantly strengthen your position. This includes:

  • Repair Orders: Keep copies of all repair orders with detailed descriptions of the issues, repair attempts made, and dates of service.
  • Receipts: Maintain receipts for all repairs, parts replacements, towing expenses, and other relevant costs associated with the defective vehicle.
  • Communication Records: Document all communication with the manufacturer or dealer, including emails, phone logs, and written correspondence. This helps demonstrate your attempts to resolve the issue amicably.

Additional Considerations:

  • Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Vehicles: While used cars under the Lemon Law typically require a manufacturer’s warranty, CPO vehicles often come with extended warranties offered by the dealership. These warranties might have different terms and conditions than the manufacturer’s original warranty, so it’s crucial to review the specific details of your CPO warranty carefully.
  • Private Party Purchases: The California Lemon Law generally does not apply to private party used car purchases. It’s vital to exercise caution and conduct thorough inspections and background checks before buying a used car from a private seller.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Before resorting to litigation, consider exploring alternative dispute resolution options such as mediation or arbitration. These methods offer a faster and less expensive approach to settling with the manufacturer or dealer.

By understanding the nuances of the California Lemon Law and taking proactive steps to protect your rights, you can empower yourself to navigate the challenges of a defective, used car and seek a fair resolution. Remember, knowledge and informed decision-making are your greatest assets in navigating the complexities of used car ownership.


The California Lemon Law protects used car buyers against unreliable vehicles. By understanding your rights, following the outlined procedures, and potentially seeking legal guidance from the Law Offices of Sotera L. Anderson, you can navigate the potential roadblocks associated with a defective used car and pursue a fair resolution. Remember, the California Lemon Law is in place to safeguard your interests as a consumer and ensure you receive a vehicle that meets the expected standards of quality and reliability. If you believe you’ve purchased a lemon, don’t hesitate to contact us today for a consultation and learn more about how we can help you assert your rights under the California Lemon Law.

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