When you drive a new car off the lot, the last thing you are probably thinking about is how much time you will have before the deal turns south. Unfortunately, this may be the case if your new car turns out to be a lemon.

The California Tanner Consumer Protection Act, commonly known as the lemon law, protects consumers who purchase cars in California. Under this law, a manufacturer must reimburse you for your purchase if your car is a “lemon.” There is a certain amount of time that you have to make a claim, however.

How long do I have to determine if my car is a lemon?

According to FindLaw, you have 18 months or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first, from the date of purchase to return your car if you find that it is a lemon. When you return your car to the manufacturer, they must reimburse you for the purchase price of your car. Manufacturers can charge you for the amount of time you own the car before you discover that it is a lemon, however.

How can I tell if my car is a lemon?

The law specifically states that a car is a lemon if the car cannot adhere to express warranties after you attempt a reasonable amount of repairs. Generally speaking, the law will consider your car a lemon under the following circumstances.

  • Your car has not been drivable for more than 30 days as a result of attempting to repair problems
  • You cannot drive your car without fear of serious injury or death and attempt to fix this problem at least twice
  • You try to fix the same problem at least four times