California residents who have had problems with a vehicle they have recently purchased might be able to rely on the federal lemon law for relief. In order for protections to be applicable, the vehicle has to have issues while its warranty is still in effect. That does not require that the vehicle was purchased new, but if there were no warranty protections on the purchase, then the federal lemon law will not apply. It should be noted that California has its own law that applies to both vehicles and other goods.
For relief to be available under the federal law, the manufacturer of the vehicle must have been given a reasonable opportunity to repair the problem before it can be forced to buy the vehicle back. There are three things that can satisfy the requirements and force a vehicle repurchase. It can be enough, first, if the manufacturer has attempted a reasonable number of times to fix the same problem, unsuccessfully, or if the vehicle has had multiple different problems that make it unusable.
Second, the repair attempts must generally begin within the first one or two years of ownership because it is otherwise difficult to establish that the car was a lemon and not simply abused by the owner. Third, the vehicle must usually have been unusable for at least 30 days before the federal law will apply.
There is no statutory definition of the number of attempts that qualifies as reasonable. Courts have ruled, though, that three or four attempts are enough to trigger lemon law protections. The owner of the vehicle should take the vehicle into a manufacturer-certified repair shop, as manufacturers are not required to vouch for independent repair work.
In cases where a vehicle has consistently had problems, an attorney might be able to help the car buyer recover. An attorney who is familiar with the federal lemon law might help the client gather information and and seek appropriate recourse.
Source: US News, "How Does the Lemon Law Work for Cars?", Eric Evarts, July 26, 2017