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Lemon laws across the country protect consumers who purchase a vehicle that has a flaw or defect that the manufacturer or dealer cannot repair. Each state's laws are different but generally cover new vehicles purchased within the state. The California lemon law covers new vehicles, including motor homes and commercial vehicles, but not motorcycles or off-road vehicles. In some cases, the law may cover a used car that is still under a manufacturer's warranty.
The law defines the issues it covers as vehicle malfunctions or defects that prevent the owner from using the vehicle that is still under warranty. The owner may be unable to use the vehicle because it will not run or is unsafe to drive. Even if the vehicle does run, a consumer may invoke the lemon law if the defect considerably affects the value of the vehicle.
A consumer who has made a reasonable number if attempts to have the defect repaired may wonder how long to wait before invoking the lemon law. In most cases, two or three tries to fix the vehicle are sufficient for the owner to pursue satisfaction from the manufacturer, as long as the consumer has notified the manufacturer at least once of the problem. The owner may also invoke the lemon law if the vehicle has been out of commission a total of 30 days or more.
However, notifying the manufacturer does not always mean obtaining the results one expects. California lemon law requires the manufacturer to replace or repurchase a vehicle meeting the qualifications of a lemon. With the right legal counsel, a consumer may also obtain compensation for other expenses, such as towing, a rental car and any penalties incurred from the auto loan lender.