A brief history of California's lemon law

Many people in Southern California may be aware of the fact that California has a lemon law that protects the purchasers of new vehicles, yet few are actually familiar with the history of the Law and the consumer protection that it affords. Given what is potentially at stake in a new vehicle purchase, it is important for one to understand it in order to ensure that they do not end up stuck with a poorly performing car with little in terms of legal recourse in order to amend the situation.

California's lemon law actually has its roots in the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, which states that any manufacturer offering an express warranty covering its goods must either maintain sufficient repair facilities in the state to address issues or authorize independent repair facilities to fulfill the terms of its warranties. Within the Act are specific stipulations that define the vehicles covered by it. According to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, these include:

  • Any new vehicle purchased primarily for personal or business use
  • Any new vehicle purchased solely for business use that has a gross vehicular weight of under 10,000 pounds
  • Any dealer-owned vehicle (including used vehicles) that are sold with a new vehicle warranty
  • Leased vehicles

While the chassis, cab and propulsion portions of a motor home are also covered under the state's lemon law, the habitable portions are not.

In 1980, state representative Sally Tanner introduced added legislation to the Act that set a reasonable number of repair attempts to invoke the law at four or more or cases where the vehicle had been inoperable due to repairs for more than 20 days.

Per the Better Business Bureau, vehicles secured from California retailers are covered under the lemon law. In 2007, that protection was extended to vehicles bought by service members stationed in the state.