Car Ads and Lemon Law: What You Need to Know

Car Ads and Lemon Law: What You Need to Know

When you’re on the hunt for a new car in California, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement. The shiny exteriors, fancy features, and irresistible deals you see in car ads can make it hard to think straight.

But what happens if your dream car turns out to be a dud?

That’s where lemon laws come into play.

Lemon laws are designed to protect you, the consumer, from the frustration and financial burden of unknowingly purchasing a defective vehicle. When a car that seemed flawless in advertisements begins to show serious faults- ones that significantly impair its use, value, or safety- a California lemon law attorney can help you find a solution.

Let’s dive into what you need to know about car ads and lemon laws and how to protect yourself from buying a lemon.

The Allure of Car Ads

Car ads are the starting block of your car-buying journey. They often promise amazing features, sleek designs, and, of course, unbeatable prices.

But remember, car ads are marketing tools, and their primary goal is to sell. Here’s what you need to keep in mind when you see a car ad:

Read the Fine Print

Any deal that looks too good to be true might have a catch. Be sure to read the fine print carefully. Look out for terms like “limited-time offer,” “for qualified buyers,” or “with approved credit.”

Total Cost

Even if the monthly payment highlighted in the ad seems affordable, you’ll need to consider the total cost of the car, including interest rates, loan terms, and any additional fees.

Test Drive

Never skip the test drive. Ads can’t tell you how the car feels on the road. A test drive helps you check if the vehicle meets your expectations.

The Link Between Car Ads and Lemon Law

Car ads can sometimes mislead consumers into believing they’re getting a perfect vehicle at a great price. However, if it turns out to be a lemon, you’ll need the protection offered by lemon laws.

Here’s how car ads and lemon laws intersect:

Advertising Claims

If a car ad claims that a vehicle is safe, reliable, or free of defects, but you find out later that it has significant issues, you may have grounds to file a lemon law claim.

Warranty Promises

Many car ads highlight the warranties that come with a vehicle. If your car has persistent problems and the dealer fails to honor the warranty, you can take legal action under lemon law.

Dealer Responsibilities

California laws require businesses (including car dealers) to uphold the claims made in their advertisements. If a dealer advertises a car as ‘certified’ or ‘inspected’ and you encounter major issues, the lemon law may support your case for a refund or replacement.

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Understanding the California Lemon Law

California has one of the most robust lemon laws in the country. The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act provides strong protections for consumers who purchase or lease new vehicles.

In California, a vehicle qualifies as a lemon if:


  • It has a defect(s) that substantially impair its value, use, or safety.
  • There have been a reasonable number of attempts (at least four) to repair the same problem without success.
  • The vehicle has been out of service for repairs at the dealer for more than 30 cumulative days for any number of warranty problems.
  • The issues occur during the warranty period, within 18 months from the delivery date of the vehicle, or 18,000 miles on the odometer, whichever occurs first.

If the manufacturer can’t fix the vehicle after a reasonable number of tries, they must either replace it or refund your money.

Your Rights Under the California Lemon Law

If you believe your car is a lemon, it’s important to know your rights and the steps to take:

Report the Problem

Inform the dealer or manufacturer about the defect as soon as possible. Give them a chance to fix the issue.

Keep Records

Document all repair attempts, including dates, descriptions of the problem, and the outcome. Also, keep copies of any correspondence with the dealer or manufacturer.

Seek Legal Help

If this is your first lemon claim or you’re too overwhelmed to handle everything by yourself, consider consulting with a California lemon law attorney. They can protect your rights and help you navigate the legal process with ease.

Avoiding Lemons: Tips for Buying a Car

While lemon laws in California provide protection, it’s always best to avoid buying a lemon in the first place. Here are some tips to help you make a smart purchase:


Before you step foot in a dealership, do your homework. Research the make and model you’re interested in, read reviews, and check for any known issues or recalls.

Check the Vehicle History

If you’re buying a used car, get a vehicle history report. This report can reveal important information about the car’s past, including accidents, repairs, and previous ownership.

Pre-Purchase Inspection

Have a trusted mechanic inspect the car before you buy it. They can identify potential problems that might not be obvious to you.

Negotiate Wisely

Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price. Car salesmen are often willing to work with you to close the deal. Remember, the sticker price is just a starting point.

Understand the Warranty

Make sure you understand what the warranty covers and for how long. A good warranty can provide peace of mind and protection against future issues.

Common Misconceptions About Car Ads and Lemon Laws

When it comes to car ads and lemon laws, several common misconceptions can confuse consumers. Let’s clarify a few:

Misconception 1: Car Ads Guarantee a Perfect Vehicle

Even if a car ad makes grand promises, it doesn’t guarantee a defect-free vehicle. Always be cautious and conduct thorough research. As mentioned earlier, advertising is meant to sell, not to assure quality or reliability.

Misconception 2: Minor Issues Qualify for Lemon Law Protection

The defects must significantly impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. Minor issues that don’t affect these aspects are generally not covered.

Misconception 3: You Need to Pay for a Lawyer to File a Lemon Law Claim

Many lemon law lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning they get paid only if you win your case. The manufacturer may also be required to pay your attorney fees if you prevail. The lack of upfront costs makes accessing legal help easier.

Misconception 4: If the Car is Repaired, It’s No Longer a Lemon

Even if the car is repaired, if it has been out of service for a significant amount of time or has undergone multiple repair attempts, it may still qualify as a lemon. A successfully repaired car can still be considered a lemon if the history of repairs shows that it couldn’t be relied on over time.


While car ads can be enticing, always do your due diligence before making a purchase. Read the fine print, keep detailed records of any issues and repairs, and don’t hesitate to seek legal assistance if needed. By staying informed and vigilant, you can navigate the car-buying process with confidence and avoid the pitfalls of purchasing a lemon.
Author Bio: Brian K. Cline’s Lemon Law Legal Group provides premier legal services. Our California lemon law lawyers aggressively and ethically force vehicle manufacturers to buy back defective and dangerous vehicles. Our team includes experienced trial lawyers with over 40 years of combined trial experience.


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