How many repairs qualify a car as a lemon?

You wanted a luxury car since you were a child. You had posters on your walls. You daydreamed about it as you drove your old Honda Civic. You started saving money as soon as you got out of college and landed a full-time job, knowing how expensive the car would be -- but knowing you had to have it.

Now you finally bought it, and you hate it. It's not that the car didn't seem good on the lot. It appeared to be everything that you had dreamed of. You thought it was perfect. The issue is that it simply keeps breaking down. You have had it in the shop for far too long over that first year of ownership. Every time you have to call a cab to get to work, you wonder if you made a huge mistake.

Is your car a lemon?

The first thing you need to consider here is that your car could be a lemon. New cars, whether leased or purchased, should not have an overwhelming amount of issues. While cars do break down -- we all understand this -- you do have a certain level of expectation. You bought a brand new product. It should serve its purpose for years before age and use start to cause it to wear down. It should not break down right after you drive off of the lot.

If it does, your car may be a lemon. This is a vehicle that has persistent issues. Despite attempts to fix those issues, it never seems as good as new. You paid for a new car and it's under warranty, but you have all of the issues you'd expect with a 15-year-old car. That's not fair to you as a consumer.

Repeated repairs

So, how many times do you need to see the same issues before your car qualifies as a lemon? This is a bit of a gray area. While you will hear people quote a number -- three repairs, four repairs, etc. -- the truth is that California lemon laws state that you simply need to go through a "reasonable number of repair attempts." If the issue still doesn't get fixed, you have some protections and options under those lemon laws.

Essentially, you can't just take the car in once, after a breakdown, and instantly declare it a lemon. Issues happen and many can get corrected. If you try to fix it and nothing works, then it's a different problem. All situations are unique.

Your options

If you think that you do have a lemon, make sure you are well aware of all of your legal options in California.

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