Does The California Lemon Law Apply to The Commercial Vehicles?

Most people assume that California lemon law – the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act – only applies to vehicles for personal use. Fortunately, business owners that purchase or lease a defective vehicle have rights under the state’s lemon law.

However, some additional qualifications must be met to have a valid claim.

In this post, we want to clear up any confusion about California lemon law and how it applies to commercial vehicles. Let’s get moving.

What is the California Lemon Law?

Lemon law was enacted to hold auto manufacturers accountable for selling defective vehicles. While this law applies nationwide, each state has distinct rules and regulations for what constitutes a “lemon”.

California has arguably the most consumer-friendly lemon laws in the United States – as the law extends to both used vehicles and commercial vehicles, in addition to new vehicles. To have a valid lemon law claim in California, your vehicle must meet the following criteria:

  • The vehicle was purchased or leased in California; and
  • The vehicle was covered under the manufacturer or dealer warranty when the defect was officially reported; and
  • The defect was not caused by driver abuse or neglect; and
  • The defect is “substantial” in that it impairs the vehicle’s safety, functionality, and/or value; and
  • The manufacturer-certified repair facility has been given a reasonable number of repair attempts to fix the defect (typically two or more); or
  • The vehicle has been out of service for repairs for 30 or more cumulative days.

To prove your vehicle meets these qualifications, you’ll need to keep organized documentation. This will include all repair orders from the facility, invoices, receipts, warranty information, dates, mileage, and recorded communication.

These documents will be crucial in how you and your California lemon law attorney build the compensation claim.

California Lemon Law for Commercial Vehicles

For starters, your commercial vehicle needs to meet the same California lemon law qualifications listed above. However, several additional guidelines must be met under Civil Code Section 1793.22. These state a commercial vehicle may qualify for a buyback or replacement if:

1.     The gross weight is under 10,000 pounds

This gross weight limit covers most vehicles, including full-size sedans, trucks, and SUVs. Larger semi-trucks may not qualify for lemon law benefits. Now, it’s important to understand the difference between gross vehicle weight (GVW) and gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).

GVW refers to the weight of the vehicle with nothing in it.

GVWR refers to the weight of the vehicle when it is fully loaded – cargo, passengers, and so on.

Fortunately, California lemon law only accounts for GVW, which means smaller cargo trucks may be eligible for benefits.

2.     Your business has five or fewer business vehicles registered under its name.

This one is relatively straightforward – but a big distinction is regarding state lines. California lemon law will only apply to business vehicles registered in California.

For instance, let’s say you have a business that spans across multiple states. The law will only apply if you have less than five vehicles registered in California. Any other vehicles registered in different states would not factor into the claim.

What to Do If You Think You Have a Lemon

Knowing what to do with a lemon is not always clear. Generally speaking, lemons are rare. Auto manufacturers have processes and quality assurance protocols to make sure defective vehicles do not leave the factory. But it’s not a perfect science.

Most people with lemons are facing this situation for the first time – and don’t know much about the process. Automakers use this to their advantage to get out of taking responsibility for selling/leasing a defective vehicle. In other words, they have no problem giving you bad information.

If you have a hunch your business vehicle has manufacturer defects, get in touch with a local lemon attorney. Most understand that you’re new to this area of the law. In fact, you may not have even known lemon law existed.

That said, trustworthy lemon law attorneys offer free consultations to help you understand your situation. Even if you don’t have a valid claim, most will be happy to point you in the right direction.

The Wrap

The most important thing to remember about California lemon law is the attorney you hire is the ONLY party that is on your side. Car companies are worldwide brands – and they spend millions of dollars every year on high-powered legal defense teams to avoid lemon claims.

Trying to fight for fair compensation on your own will almost certainly end with a lowball cash settlement – if anything at all.

The good news is hiring a skilled lemon law lawyer will not cost you anything out of pocket.

Manufacturers are required to pay for your attorney fees and court costs as part of the lemon law buyback. Lemon attorneys work on a contingency fee agreement – meaning they make a percentage of the total settlement paid out AFTER they win the case.

Hopefully, this post has cleared up any confusion about California lemon law and commercial vehicles. If you still have questions, do not hesitate to reach out to a local lemon lawyer.