Does the Lemon Law Apply to Business Vehicles?
Many people in California purchase or lease vehicles solely for business use. But just like with cars for personal use, business vehicles can sometimes have issues. Not only can a company car with a defect be an inconvenience — it can also significantly interrupt your business operations. You may be wondering whether a business use vehicle qualifies for lemon law protections. In some cases, it might, depending on the circumstances.
When Does the California Lemon Law Cover Business Vehicles?
The language of the California Lemon Law states that it applies to vehicles “bought or used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.” However, it does contain an exception. While the California Lemon Law is meant to be a consumer protection statute, it also applies to business vehicles if certain criteria are met.
A small business owner in California will often register vehicles in the name of their company. Considering how crucial vehicle warranties are to entrepreneurs in the state, the California legislature included a provision for business vehicles. Specifically, the lemon law will cover a business vehicle provided (1) the business that owns that particular vehicle has no more than five vehicles registered in its name, and (2) the “gross weight” of the vehicle does not exceed 10,000 pounds.
It's important to understand that a vehicle’s “gross weight” is different from the “gross vehicle weight rating.” While the “gross vehicle weight” refers to the actual weight of the vehicle, the “gross vehicle weight rating” refers to how much weight capacity the vehicle is designed to handle when it is fully loaded. Notably, the 10,000 pounds weight limit doesn’t only cover smaller sedans. It is also high enough to cover many trucks used by contractors, citrus-fruit growers, and those in the agricultural industry.
How Do You Know If Your Business Vehicle is a Lemon?
Lemon vehicles can experience any number of issues, ranging from transmission problems, faulty brakes, unintended acceleration, steering wheel problems, and defective airbags. Just because a vehicle has a defect doesn’t automatically mean it is a lemon. Whether the vehicle is meant for personal or business use, the problem must be one that cannot be repaired after several reasonable attempts have been made.
In addition to meeting the criteria above for business vehicles, in order for a company car to qualify for a remedy under the lemon law, the following criteria must be satisfied:
- The vehicle must have been purchased in California
- The vehicle must be under the original manufacturer’s warranty
- The vehicle must have a defect that substantially impairs the vehicle’s value or safety
Three to four repair attempts will usually be sufficient to qualify for a remedy under the lemon law. However, if the defect involves a serious safety hazard that could cause injury to the driver, their passengers, or others on the road, only two repair attempts may be necessary. A vehicle might also satisfy the criteria for a lemon law claim if it is in the repair shop for a total of 30 days or more and repairs have not been made or were unsuccessful.
A vehicle is legally presumed to be a lemon if the defect arose within the first 18 months of the vehicle’s delivery — or within the initial 18,000 miles driven. This presumption can make it even easier for a consumer to obtain the remedy from the manufacturer for the monetary losses and hassle they experienced as a result of purchasing a lemon.
Damages Available Under California’s Lemon Law
Under California’s lemon law, a consumer who is able to prove their claim may be entitled to their choice of a refund (minus a mileage offset) or replacement vehicle. A manufacturer might also be required to reimburse the plaintiff for the incidental damages suffered by the consumer because of the malfunctioning vehicle. The manufacturer may also be ordered to pay the consumer’s attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.
Vehicle manufacturers can sometimes be known to use unethical tactics to avoid providing a lemon law buyback. If the manufacturer willfully violated the lemon law, a civil penalty of up to twice the monetary recovery obtained may be awarded to the plaintiff. A civil penalty may also be awarded if the manufacturer tries to tell you that you do not qualify for the lemon law because your vehicle is owned by a business or exceeds 10,000 pounds. A manufacturer is prohibited by law from making misrepresentations in the hopes that you will not pursue a claim.
Contact an Experienced California Lemon Law Attorney
If you purchased or leased a business vehicle that failed to conform to the manufacturer’s warranty, you may be eligible to file a claim under California’s Lemon Law. It’s vital to contact a diligent California Lemon Law attorney who can discuss your legal rights and recourse. The attorneys at The Ledbetter Law Firm have vast experience providing consumers with effective advocacy to help ensure they obtain the compensation to which they are entitled.
The Ledbetter Law Firm, A.P.C. assists clients throughout Southern California who have purchased lemon vehicles and helps them obtain the refund or replacement vehicle they deserve from the manufacturer. With offices conveniently located in Torrance and San Diego, California, telephone and video conferencing options are also available. Call (310) 878-0067 to schedule a consultation with a California Lemon Law attorney today.