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Guide to California’s Lemon Laws

Diagram of a lemon car

It’s the kind of scenario bikers have nightmares about—you’ve just dropped thousands of dollars on a new Honda or Triumph, but the bike starts to exhibit signs of trouble before you’ve even managed to break it in. Obviously, nobody wants to find themselves in a situation like this, but what can you do if the worst should happen? That’s where lemon laws can help.

But wait a second—what are lemon laws, how do they work in California, and what do motorcyclists in the Golden State need to know about them? Don’t worry; the wBW team is here to help you understand these important laws that help protect you when you’re buying a new vehicle.

Below, we’ll cover the purpose of lemon laws, the types of vehicles they apply to, and other considerations specific to residents of California. Without any further ado, let’s get started.

What Is a Lemon Law?

Lemon laws allow you to either get your money back for a new vehicle purchase or have it replaced outright if the vehicle in question comes with a serious defect that even the manufacturer can’t solve after a reasonable number of attempts.

All 50 US states have lemon laws that apply to the purchase of new vehicles, although most do not apply to used vehicles. Since there is no federal lemon law, the protection offered by these laws varies considerably depending on the state where the vehicle was purchased or registered. This makes it vital to research lemon laws for any state you’re thinking about buying a vehicle in.

How California’s Lemon Law Works

California’s lemon laws are widely considered to be among the best in the country, which means they apply more broadly and offer better protection than most others. Many states have more restrictive definitions of the types of vehicles their lemon laws apply to, or the period under which lemon law claims can be filed.

While there is no set number for what constitutes a “reasonable” number of repair attempts in California, this is generally interpreted to mean either:

  • At least four unsuccessful repair attempts, or
  • At least two unsuccessful attempts in cases where the defect could cause serious injury or death if the vehicle is driven

There is also a clause called the Lemon Law Presumption, where a vehicle may be eligible for replacement under California lemon law if it has spent more than 30 days in the repair shop for problems covered by its warranty. These days do not have to be consecutive—however, note that lemon laws can only be applied within a specific window of time after purchasing your vehicle.

Frequently Asked Questions about California’s Lemon Laws

How Many Days Is the Lemon Law in California?

California lemon law can be invoked if the problem in question initially occurred during the first 18 months of vehicle ownership or within the first 18,000 miles of driving the new vehicle (whichever comes sooner). If the problem has started and been identified within this window, owners generally have a four-year window in which to actually file their lemon law claim.

Exchanging motorcycle bike keys

Via Adobe Stock.

Do California’s Lemon Laws Apply to Motorcycles?

Not all US states have lemon laws covering motorcycles—but California does in many cases. For a motorcycle to be covered under California’s lemon law, it must:

  • Have been sold or leased as a new vehicle with a written warranty
  • Be intended for personal, family, or household use

This means lemon laws likely won’t protect you if you bought your bike from an individual in a cash transaction—but they could still cover you if you bought a used bike from a dealership. You’ll just need to get details on whether the bike is still under warranty or not before you purchase it.

Can Lemon Laws Apply to Vehicles Sold Without Warranties?

No—lemon laws in California and most other states are only applicable to vehicles sold under warranty. This can include used vehicles and demonstration models, but only as long as they are still under warranty.

Note also that the vehicle in question doesn’t necessarily have to be under the manufacturer’s original warranty to be covered by lemon law. For example, vehicles sold by a used dealership that has covered them with its own express written warranty are still subject to lemon law in California.

A man fixing motorcycle engine

Via Pexels / Mick Haupt

Do You Need a Lawyer to Pursue a Lemon Law Claim?

This is where things get tricky. Many manufacturers offer a state-certified arbitration program to resolve lemon law claims by customers, and strongly recommend that you go through these channels. However, that does not necessarily mean you won’t benefit from legal representation when filing a lemon law claim.

Lemon law claims, like insurance claims, can be complicated—and mistakes could prevent you from getting the compensation you should be entitled to receive. Here is a specific guide to filing a lemon law claim in California from Note that you don’t necessarily need a lawyer to file a claim, but doing so is likely easier with appropriate guidance and representation.

When Life Gives You Lemons, There’s Lemon Law

Shopping for a vehicle can come with a lot of pressure, which is why it’s vital to know what legal mechanisms exist to protect you and how to use them if necessary. Use what you’ve learned above as a starting point for understanding California’s lemon law, and purchase your next ride with confidence.

Want more information on buying a motorcycle? Check out our article on choosing and buying a motorcycle, or read about buying a new vs. used motorcycle on our sister site,