So, you bought a car, but it's broken down more times than you can remember and is in the shop more often than not. You've reviewed California’s Lemon Law and it seems clear that your “vehicle” falls within the definition of a “lemon.”

Now what?

Knowing your rights under California's Lemon Law and taking action to protect them are as different as night and day. One takes some online research and maybe a discussion with an attorney. The other involves sending emails that create conflict and can escalate into hiring a lawyer to fight for your rights and interests that might go to arbitration or all the way to court.

Because so many cars that are produced these days seem to be made to fail, countless people from all walks of life are left in the same situation. Knowing this, the people who put together California's Lemon Law, also known as the Song-Beverly Act, included a handful of provisions that are meant to simplify the process for getting the remedy that you need, including an in-depth arbitration process.

Informal Settlements

Before getting to an arbitration process, though, many people who find themselves as the less-than-proud owners of a lemon reach out to their car manufacturer to get an informal resolution. By not going through the legal process, they attempt to work with their car dealer or manufacturer and come up with a solution that works for everyone.

This often starts by reaching out to your dealer and manufacturer and detailing exactly what's wrong with your car, as well as the steps you've taken to fix it. It can help to provide copies of what your mechanic did to try fixing the vehicle, to prove that you're not just making things up.

Sometimes, your dealership or manufacturer will play fairly and try helping in a meaningful way. If this is the case, and they extend an offer that you think is reasonable, then you can take it and move on. However, if they are less than helpful or you think you're being low-balled, then your next step is to take your case to arbitration.


California's Lemon Law allows you to choose to take your case to arbitration, where you'll get to present evidence that your car is a lemon to a neutral third party, also known as an arbitrator. Unlike what many dealerships will tell you, this is a completely voluntary step, and you can elect to skip it and go directly to court, instead. If you do choose to go through arbitration, your dealership or manufacturer will challenge your evidence and can also present their own, in an attempt to avoid paying you back your purchase price or giving you a replacement vehicle.

In order for your case to be eligible to go to arbitration, you must have bought the vehicle in California and either still be under the manufacturer's original warranty or within six months of its expiration.

If you're eligible for arbitration, then the details for how to initiate the process are often included in the manufacturer's warranty, or in an information packet that was provided when you bought the vehicle. All manufacturers that are involved in California's state-certified arbitration program for lemon vehicles are required to provide information on how to initiate the arbitration process.

Once begun, the process is much quicker than going to court with your claim. California's Lemon Law requires arbitrators to process a claim in under 40 days, and for the manufacturer to perform the arbitrator's decision within 30 days of being notified of it.

If you win at arbitration, the arbitrator has the power to grant an award, including a replacement vehicle, a refund of your purchase price, an additional repair attempt, and even a refund of additional expenses that you may have incurred, like towing costs, taxes, and other fees. However, an arbitrator also has the power to deduct damages beyond normal wear and tear from the refund price.

If you lose at arbitration, it's not necessarily the end of the case. You can still take it to court. However, your dealership will use the arbitrator's adverse decision against you. If your case goes all the way to trial, they will tell the jury that an arbitrator had already heard your case and ruled against you, hinting that the jury should, too.

Taking Your Case to Court

While manufacturers and dealerships often urge you to take your case to arbitration, this is not always the best move. In fact, they often push you into going to arbitration precisely because they have a lot of say in who gets to be the arbitrator.

Skipping arbitration and taking your case to court means that the process will be slower. However, this often works in your own favor because it allows you and your attorney more time to gather evidence that your car was a lemon.

Perhaps more importantly, if you take your case to court you'll also be eligible to recover attorney's fees if you win, in addition to the awards that an arbitrator can give you. Having an attorney on your side throughout the process – from even before you decide on whether to go to arbitration or not – greatly increases your chance of success, so taking your case to court allows you to bring an attorney on board from the start.

California Lemon Law Lawyers

Protecting the rights that California's Lemon Law guarantees you is not an easy thing to do on your own. Having lawyers beside you through the entire process can make it much easier than it would be to go alone. It also greatly increases your odds of success. Additionally, the manufacturer has to pay the attorneys fees if it's determined that your car was a lemon.

The attorneys at The Lemon Lawyer only handle Lemon Law claims, and are here to help you get what you need from your dealership and manufacturer. Contact us online or at (844) 227-7762.

Don't Hesitate

The longer you let your car sit in the shop, the greater the cost is to you. If you think you may have a case, get in touch with one of our attorneys today.