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How a lemon law claim is possible even after warranty expiration

California’s lemon law, formally known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, is an important one for anyone buying or leasing a new or used car, truck, boat, motorcycle or other vehicle in the state. This is the law that makes clear that, if your vehicle doesn’t perform as described under its express warranty, you have specific rights to remedies

State statutes spell out the nature those remedies may take as well. They include:

  • A requirement that the manufacturer or its dealer replace your vehicle
  • Buying back your vehicle

To make a claim under these provisions, the evidence must show that a “reasonable number” of attempts have been made to repair the problem and it still exists. It’s also necessary to show how the defect “substantially impairs” the safe use of the vehicle or diminishes its value.

That presumes that a warranty is in effect. But what if the vehicle is used? What if the warranty has expired? Consumers may still be able to seek remedy, but to understand and protect your rights, you need to take timely action and consult an experienced attorney.

One factor of the lemon law that may be helpful to know is the statute of limitations for filing a claim. That deadline is four years and might be in addition to whenever the warranty expired due to time or mileage. Once that time passes, it isn’t possible to seek remedy. But when does the clock start ticking?

That can be harder to nail down. It depends on many things including the terms of the vehicle warranty and when you discover the defect. If you are dealing with an issue in a resold lemon – a vehicle previously bought back because of a defect and then resold – the law requires that it carry a one-year warranty and be clearly identified as a lemon vehicle.

The law is complicated. The use of such terms as “reasonable” and “substantial,” leaves room for differing interpretations. Still, the law is there for consumers who choose to learn how it can be exercised.

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