The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (beginning with Civil Code section 1790) provides protection for consumers who lease or buy new motor vehicles. The law requires that if the manufacturer or its representative in this state, such as an authorized dealer, is unable to service or repair a new motor vehicle to meet the terms of an express written warranty after a reasonable number of repair attempts, the manufacturer is required promptly to replace the vehicle or return the purchase price to the lessee or buyer. The purchase price that must be returned includes the price paid for manufacturer-installed items and transportation but does not include the price paid for nonmanufacturer items installed by the dealer. The lessee or buyer is completely free to choose whether to accept a replacement or a refund. Whatever the choice, the manufacturer is also responsible to pay for sales or use tax; license, registration, and other official fees; and incidental damages that the lessee or buyer may have incurred such as finance charges, repair, towing, and rental car costs.
The lessee or buyer may be charged for the use of the vehicle regardless of whether the vehicle is replaced or the purchase price is refunded. The amount that may be charged for use is determined by multiplying the actual price of the new vehicle by a fraction having as its denominator 120,000 and as its numerator the number of miles traveled by the vehicle before it was first brought in for correction of the problem. For example, if the car had traveled 6,000 miles before it was first brought in for correction of the problem, the lessee or buyer could be charged 5% (6,000/120,000 = 5%) of the purchase price for usage.
The law applies for the entire period of your warranty. For example, if your vehicle is covered by a three-year warranty and you discover a defect after two years, the manufacturer will have to replace the vehicle or reimburse you as outlined above if the manufacturer or its representative is unable to conform the vehicle to the express warranty after a reasonable number of attempts to do so.
Song-Beverly does not apply if the problem was caused by abuse after the vehicle was delivered. Be sure you follow the terms of the warranty for maintenance and proper use of the vehicle.
Although there is a four-year statute of limitations to bring a law suit for breach of warranty or for violations of Song-Beverly, you should act promptly to try to resolve the problem fairly and quickly without legal action if possible.
What is considered a reasonable number of repair attempts will depend on the circumstances including the seriousness of the defect. For example, one or two repair attempts may be considered reasonable for serious safety defects such as brake failure, depending on the exact situation.
A special provision, often called the "Lemon Law," helps determine what is a reasonable number of repair attempts for problems that substantially impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. The "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 the first 18 months or 18,000 miles, the "Lemon Law" presumes that a manufacturer has had a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle if either
The "Lemon Law" presumption is a guide, not an absolute rule. A judge or arbitrator can assume that the manufacturer has had a reasonable number of chances to repair the vehicle if all of the conditions are met. The manufacturer, however, has the right to try to prove that it should have the chance to attempt additional repairs, and the consumer has the right to show that fewer repair attempts are reasonable under the circumstances.
Be sure to check your warranty and owner's manual for instructions. You may be required to directly notify the manufacturer of the problem(s). It is a good idea to send your written notice to the manufacturer at the address shown in the warranty or owner's manual by certified mail, return receipt requested so that you have proof that your letter was received. Keep a copy of all correspondence.
If the manufacturer maintains a state-certified arbitration program, the consumer must submit the warranty dispute to the arbitration program before the consumer can take advantage of the presumption in court. Arbitration is an alternative to court proceedings. The consumer may assert the presumption during arbitration. Information about any arbitration should be described in the warranty or owner's manual.CLICK HERE to read more about California Lemon Law