The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act , which can be found starting at California Civil Code section 1790, provides protection for consumers who purchase or lease new motor vehicles and other consumer products. As it relates to new motor vehicles, the law provides that if the manufacturer or its representative in this state, such as an authorized dealer, is unable to service or repair the vehicle to meet the terms of an express written warranty after a reasonable number of repair attempts, the manufacturer is required to promptly return the purchase price to the buyer or replace the vehicle. The term buyer also includes a lessee under the law.
The amount that must be returned includes the down payment, monthly payments, and the price paid for manufacturer-installed items but does not include the price paid for non-manufacturer or aftermarket items installed by the dealer. The buyer cannot be required to accept a replacement vehicle by the manufacturer and is free to choose a refund. Conversely, the buyer cannot force the manufacturer to replace their vehicle, as long as the manufacturer is offering a refund of the amount paid for the purchase price as required by law.
Whatever remedy the consumer chooses, the manufacturer is responsible to pay for sales or use tax; license, registration, other official fees, plus any incidental damages that the buyer may have incurred such out of pocket repair costs, towing, and rental car expense.
The buyer may be charged for their use of the vehicle by the manufacturer. This usage fee applies whether the vehicle is replaced or the purchase price is refunded. The amount that may be charged for use is determined by dividing the number of miles on the vehicle at the time it is first delivered for repair of the problem justifying repurchase or replacement by 120,000 and then multiplying that decimal by the actual price paid for the vehicle.
For example, if the buyer paid $30,000 for a car and it had 5,000 miles on the odometer at the time it was delivered for repair of a problem justifying repurchase, the buyer would be charged 5,000 (mileage)/120,000 (set by law) x $30,000 (purchase price) which equals a usage fee of $1,250. Even if the buyer drove an additional 20,000 miles before the manufacturer agreed to repurchase the vehicle, the usage fee would be set using this formula based on the first repair attempt. The usage fee is deducted from any refund the buyer receives for the repurchase.
Song-Beverly applies for the entire period of your warranty. For example, if a vehicle is covered by a five year 60,000 mile warranty, and the buyer discovers a nonconformity after three years (but less than 60,000) miles, which is not repaired after a reasonable number of repair attempts, the manufacturer may still have to repurchase or replace the vehicle as outlined above.
Song-Beverly does not apply if the problem was caused by abuse after the vehicle was delivered. Be sure to follow the terms of the owner’s manual for maintenance and proper use of the vehicle.
The statute of limitations to file a law suit for breach of warranty for violation of Song-Beverly is four years from the date of breach. However, the buyer should act promptly to try to resolve the problem as soon as they believe a valid claim exists so as not to allow an argument by the manufacturer that the delay was an indication that problems must not have been that substantial.
Determining what a reasonable number of repair attempts is under the California Lemon Law will depend on the circumstances of the problem with the vehicle, including how the problem impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle to the buyer. Two repair attempts may be considered reasonable for serious safety defects such as a steering or brake failure, depending on the situation.
There is a section of the CA Lemon Law which helps determine what is a reasonable number of repair attempts for problems that substantially impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle to the buyer. The California “Lemon Law” applies to these problems if they arise during the first 18 months after the consumer received delivery of the vehicle or within the first 18,000 miles on the odometer, whichever occurs first. During this time frame, the CA “Lemon Law” presumes that a manufacturer had a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle if either; (1) the same problem results in a condition that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle is driven and the problem has been subject to repair two or more times by the manufacturer or its agents, and the buyer has at least once directly notified the manufacturer of the need for the repair of the problem as provided in the warranty or owner’s manual; or (2) the same problem has been subject to repair four or more times by the manufacturer, or its authorized repair facility and the buyer has at least once directly notified the manufacturer of the need for the repair of the problem as provided in the warranty or owner’s manual; or (3) the vehicle is out of service for repair for a cumulative total of more than 30 days since delivery of the vehicle for all nonconformities, regardless of whether there has been repeat repair for any one particular problem .
The California “Lemon Law” presumption is a guide only and should not be considered and automatic determination of a reasonable number of repairs. While a judge or jury could presume that the manufacturer has had a reasonable number of chances to repair the vehicle if all of the conditions are met, the manufacturer has the right to try to prove that it should have the chance to attempt additional repairs. In addition, the consumer has the right to show that fewer repair attempts should be considered reasonable under the particular circumstances.
Be sure to check your warranty and owner’s manual for instructions. If you plan on using the California Lemon Law presumption you may be required to directly notify the manufacturer of the problem(s) with the vehicle. If you do send correspondence to the manufacturer it is recommended the notice be made by certified mail, return receipt requested so that you have proof that your letter was received. You should always keep a copy of any correspondence with the manufacturer or its authorized repair facility. In some circumstances where the consumer wishes to assert the presumption above, and the manufacturer maintains a state-certified arbitration program which also meets federal guidelines, the consumer must submit the warranty dispute to the arbitration program before the consumer can take advantage of the presumption in court. Not every manufacturer maintains a California Lemon Law state certified program and recently many such programs have been found to not comply with Federal guidelines.
There is absolutely no requirement for the buyer to use the presumption or go through arbitration prior to filing a lawsuit. In many cases foregoing the presumption would be more beneficial to the consumer in the long run. Check with an experienced California Lemon Law attorney before deciding to go through arbitration. An experienced CA Lemon Law attorney will be able to tell you if arbitration is recommended in your situation.
The law applies to a new motor vehicle that is bought or used primarily for personal, family or household purposes. The law also applies to a new motor purchased primarily for business use if the vehicle has a gross vehicle weight under 10,000 pounds; as long as the business has less than five motor vehicles are registered in this state. Gross Vehicle Weight means how the vehicle is actually used not the capacity of the vehicle to carry a certain amount
The law discussed above applies to “new motor vehicles.” The term “new motor vehicle” includes not only new motor vehicles but also demonstrators; the chassis, chassis cab, and propulsion system of a new motor home; and any other motor vehicle sold with a manufacturer’s new car warranty. For example, a three year old used car sold with the remaining portion of a manufacturer’s new car warranty would be treated as a new motor vehicle.
The legal rules discussed above apply to new motor vehicles. However, Song-Beverly has additional provisions that apply to any consumer product sold with an express written warranty. Therefore, there is important coverage for motorcycles, boats, motor homes, and used vehicles sold certified pre-owned or with a dealer’s express written warranty.
A detailed explanation of the warranty rights for consumer goods is beyond the scope of this page. In a nutshell, just understand that although there are certain rights that protect the buyer of such products, coverage is not identical to the coverage for a new motor vehicle. As an example, a manufacturer that is unable to fix a consumer good to meet the terms of the express warranty within a reasonable number of attempts is required to replace the goods or refund the purchase price less an amount attributable to the consumer’s use. However, there is no set formula to determine the amount which will be charged for the consumer’s use before the discovery of the problem. The California Lemon Law presumption also does not apply to consumer goods.