Buying a new vehicle is one of the biggest purchases one will make. Consumers have the right to expect the vehicle to function as it should and not have any known defects.

The state of California has protections in place for consumers who unknowingly buy a malfunctioning car. According to the lemon law, consumers can make a claim against the manufacturer and go through an arbitration process, which may have multiple possible outcomes.

Basics of the lemon law

According to the Better Business Bureau, the law covers defects or malfunctions of a vehicle that impair the safety or use of the vehicle and are under the written warranty. Covered vehicles are those leased or purchased in California and bought for personal or family use. If it is a vehicle meant for business use, it must weight less than 10,000 pounds.

The manufacturer has a duty to repair the vehicle to conformity. If unable to do so, the manufacturer must replace or repurchase the vehicle.

Arbitration decisions

The manufacturer and consumer may choose to go through an arbitration process. If this is the case, the California Department of Consumer Affairs discusses what potential decisions the arbitrator may make. After a consumer files a claim, it must go through processing within 40 days. The arbitrator must provide a decision within 40 days of the opening of the claim, and the manufacturer must perform the decision within 30 days.

Some possible outcomes from arbitration are

  • Replacement vehicle
  • Complete refund
  • Further repair attempt
  • Extended service contract
  • Incidental expense reimbursement
  • Denial

Although arbitration does not require the use of an attorney, the claim filing can be a complex process. Providing all relevant information in a timely manner reduces the chances of a claim denial.