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Lemon laws: Fruit not always the topic when lemons are mentioned

When a California resident is talking about lemons, fruit is often the first thing that comes to mind. However, the discussion might have nothing at all to do with food and everything to do with automobiles. Lemon laws are part of the Tanner Consumer Protection Act.

New or used vehicles may be covered under lemon laws if they are sold or leased in this state and come with warranties. If a manufacturer cannot bring a car to conformity with warranties after numerous attempted repairs, it is classified as a lemon. Nonconformity refers to any vehicle issues that impairs a car's value, use or safety.

The phrase, "numerous attempted repairs" is a bit ambiguous as California law does not specify a number. However, the law does state that a car is classified as a lemon if, after 18,000 miles or 18 months, two or more repair attempts have been made regarding an issue that is likely to cause serious injury or fatality. A car is also a lemon by legal definition if four or more repair attempts are made for a recurring issue, or 30 days have passed with the car out of commission due to attempted repairs of any issue.

If a California consumer determines that his or her car is a lemon, the law allows 18,000 miles or 18 months from purchase date to return the vehicle. At that point, the manufacturer must either replace the vehicle or compensate the consumer. The compensation aspects of lemon laws can be confusing, so it is helpful to seek guidance and support from an attorney who is well-versed in such issues.

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