Tesla Lemon Law Attorney

How Does the Tesla Lemon Buyback Law Work?

If you are a Tesla owner in California, your vehicle does not conform to all applicable warranties, and Tesla fails to repair your car after attempting to do so a reasonable number of times, you have the legal right to either a refund or replacement – subject to the amount being offset by the number of miles driven prior to the vehicle needing its first repair related to the issue in question. 

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The Basics

California’s lemon law, as it applies to Tesla, presumes that a reasonable number of repair attempts have been made when – within either the first 18 months of delivery or the first 18,000 miles driven, whichever comes first – one of the following applies:

  • Tesla has made at least two unsuccessful attempts to repair the vehicle’s nonconforming issue, which leaves the car – if driven – in a condition that is likely to cause serious bodily injury or death.


  • Tesla has unsuccessfully attempted to repair the same nonconformity, which is a defect or condition that substantially impairs the car’s use, value, or safety, at least four times. 
  • The vehicle has been in the shop for repair of a nonconformity for more than 30 days.

If one of the first two reasons apply to your vehicle, informing Tesla of the issue or issues in writing is required.

Does Your Car Qualify under the Lemon Law?

If you have a Tesla that you think may qualify under California’s lemon law, the first matter of consideration is whether or not it is still under the manufacturer’s warranty. Tesla offers a range of warranty packages that vary according to model, and this will guide your case. Another primary concern is that the issue with your Tesla must have been addressed by a Tesla dealership – in order to bring a successful Tesla lemon law case, you must have allowed the dealer an adequate opportunity to fix the problem. If your Tesla hasn’t been running for a significant length of time due to a problem that continues to recur, California’s lemon law may apply and could afford you financial relief.

The Most Problematic Tesla Models

When it comes to determining the most problematic Tesla models, it’s something of a mixed bag. 

The 2023 Tesla Model S

According to Hotcars, the 2023 Tesla Model S received a Consumer Report rating of 2 out of 5 and an overall score of 62 out of 100, ranking it in spot number 8 in the top 10 lineup for most unreliable EV vehicles. This is Tesla’s flagship model, and its driving range and power are just two of the reasons for its nearly mythical standing. The Model S, however, has also experienced some hiccups along the way. The primary concerns with the Model S include the following:

  • Climate control that malfunctions
  • Suspension issues
  • Problems with the electric motor and steering 

Issues Specific to the Model S

Tesla’s concerns tend to be specific to the model, and while the Model S is beloved for its sleek design and hi-tech features, it is closely associated with defects like the following:

  • Faulty transmission systems that can require a full replacement
  • A sudden and dangerous loss of power
  • Faulty universal joints on the vehicle’s driver shaft
  • Streamlined door handles that practically disappear into the car’s body but can conduct enough heat to burn those who touch them.
  • The Model S in 2013 and 2016 experienced issues with the door handles conducting excessive heat as well as with faulty transmissions.

The 2023 Tesla Model X

The Tesla Model X hits the number 4 spot with a Consumer Report score of 2 out of 5 and an overall rating of 52 out of 100. While its falcon-wing doors, lightning acceleration, and 670 hp motor were designed to make the Model X a star among performance SUVs, it has earned a reputation for being the most unreliable of all the Tesla vehicles out there. Some of the most serious concerns include:

  • Issues with suspension
  • Inferior build quality that leads to glitches with those impressive falcon-wing doors
  • Problems with the Media Control Unit (MCU)

Issues Specific to the Model X

Defects that Model X owners tend to complain about include all the following:

  • An autopilot system that either malfunctions later in the vehicle’s life or that never worked in the first place
  • Failures in the power steering system that lead to steering lockups when making turns
  • Dangerous episodes of unexpected acceleration 
  • Ghosting effects in the windshield caused by its sheer size, creating double vision for the driver, which is not only disorienting but also decreases overall visibility.
  • The Model X in 2017 and 2019 experienced issues with autopilot failures, faulty steering systems, unexpected acceleration, and poor windshield visibility. 


Identifying Problematic Models by Year

The manufacturer makes four models, and two of these consistently make various Top Ten lists of least reliable EV vehicles. The year of manufacture, however, can also play a significant role in performance.

Of the four Tesla sedan models, specific years tend to have their own concerns, and they break down as follows:

  • The Model 3 in 2017, 2018, and 2019 experienced issues with the vehicle shutting down while driving, faulty touchscreens, lock system malfunctions, and overall loss of power. 
  • The Model Y in 2020 and 2021 experienced issues with poor wheel alignment, faulty seat belt retention system, unexpected stopping, and the sudden loss of tire pressure. 

The Model X is the costliest Tesla model to maintain, and the 2013 Tesla Model S is generally considered the least reliable of the entire line. Further, the Tesla Model 3 costs the least in terms of both starting price and maintenance costs, and the 2021 Tesla Model 3 is identified as the most reliable Tesla across the board.

The Least Reliable Tesla of All

The 2013 Tesla Model S has widely been touted as the most unreliable Tesla on the market and deserves some attention of its own. The two primary defects that earn the most complaints include:

  • A range of concerning whining or grinding noises that happen during acceleration, which are caused by poorly installed trim panels in the vehicle’s interior
  • The likelihood that the door handle system will fail early on in this car’s life

Common Tesla Defects

Each of Tesla’s four models has its own concerns, but issues that tend to apply across the board include:

  • Electrical issues, poor manufacturing, and poor build quality generally 
  • Power steering system failures
  • Unexpected loss of power
  • Reliability issues with both cruise control adjustment and autopilot features
  • Warning lights that are unreliable
  • Battery packs that wear out prematurely – especially in cold climates

Issues Specific to the Model 3

Defects that are most common to the Tesla Model 3 include:

  • A touchscreen system that fails completely
  • Locking issues that lock owners out
  • A sudden loss of power while driving

The core cause of the Model 3 defect is a faulty high-voltage controller, but software updates can remedy others. To help offset the problems that come with the Model 3, the average annual repair costs are significantly lower than they are for other models. 

Issues Specific to the Model Y

Some of the most serious problems related to the Model Y stem from its high-tech EV transmission system. Consider some of the most common consumer complaints:

  • A sudden loss in tire pressure
  • Unexpected stops related to a malfunctioning collision avoidance system
  • Faulty seat belt retention system
  • Faulty wheel alignment

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Common Manufacturer Defects

According to CNN Business, even Elon Musk – Tesla CEO – admits to manufacturing concerns with the Model 3.

In 2018, an engineering consultant who reverse engineered cars after tearing them apart in order to assess overall quality issued a harsh appraisal of the Model 3 that likened its flaws to those seen in Kias in the 1990s. He went on to note significant inconsistencies related to the following:

  • Uneven gaps between exterior panels
  • Issues with paint jobs

He finished his commentary with – I can’t imagine how they released this. Musk, who generally isn’t one to welcome criticism, called the review accurate. 

Tesla Employees Weigh In

Even Tesla employees have plenty to say about manufacturing concerns. According to CNBC, Tesla employees have reported on all the following issues:

  • The company is manufacturing a high percentage of flawed parts and vehicles that often require significant repairs and rework. 
  • Instead of fixing defective parts in line, some are shipped to remanufacturing facilities in an effort to avoid them being scrapped. 
  • One employee estimated that about 40 percent of the parts either made or received at a specific factory required rework. 

One specialist on lean manufacturing put it this way: 

Even during what is considered ‘launch’ mode, if a company is selling its cars to customers, it should not be experiencing large amounts of rework. This speaks to an internal quality issue . . . on a magnitude that is not normal for most car manufacturers.

Quality Control Is a Primary Concern

When it comes to Tesla manufacturing, quality control is a primary concern. Many owners detail issues related to poor alignment between door panels and bumpers that can lead to cabin leaks, and this is not to mention the issues related to door handles and AC units that continue to plague several models. Inferior paint jobs are also a common issue. One owner of both a Model Y and a Model 3 discusses the lack of consistency that plagues Tesla. After listing the issues with his more recent Model Y purchase, he shared the following:

  • It was delivered to him in better shape than his Model 3 when he received it in 2018. 
  • He could have rejected the Model Y’s delivery for failing to meet his quality standards.
  • Doing so, however, would have led to a waiting period of from several weeks to several months.

Ultimately, he considered sending the car back a roll of the dice – the next car could have more defects, which speaks to exactly how inconsistent Tesla manufacturing can be. 

Tesla Recalls

Tesla has a string of recalls that apply to all of its vehicle models.

January 29, 2024

Tesla recalled select Model S, Model X, Model 3, Model Y, and 2024 Cyber Truck models. The issue involves incorrect displays for the Brake, Park, and Antilock Brake System (ABS) warning lights.

January 21, 2024

Tesla recalled certain Model S, X, and Y vehicles that are equipped with full self-driving computers due to a concern regarding software stability, which could potentially hinder the display of the rear view camera image.

December 18, 2023

Tesla recalled specific Model S and X vehicles due to a potential safety issue. In the event of a crash, the cabin doors may become unlocked.

December 11, 2023

Tesla recalled certain Model S, Model X, Model 3, and Model Y vehicles equipped with all versions of Autosteer prior to the version(s) containing the recall remedy. Under specific conditions, the driver-assistance feature may not adequately deter driver misuse.

November 2, 2023

Tesla recalled certain Model S and Model X vehicles due to potentially incorrect airbag installation.

July 13, 2023

Tesla recalled specific 2023 Model S, Model X, and Model Y vehicles because the forward-facing camera could be improperly aligned, leading to the potential unavailability of certain active safety features like emergency braking, forward collision warning, and lane assist, without notifying the driver.

June 18, 2023

Tesla recalled specific 2023 Model 3 and Model Y vehicles for potentially defective pyrotechnic battery disconnects.

May 29, 2023

Tesla recalled specific 2022 and 2023 Model Y vehicles for steering wheel fasteners that were potentially loose. 

April 4, 2023

Tesla recalled specific 2023 Model X vehicles that are equipped with the full self-driving computer 4.0 and that were running a specific software release version – citing that weak camera signal strength could prevent the display of the rearview image, which reduced rear visibility beyond federal requirements. 

March 30, 2023

Tesla recalled specific 2018 and 2019 Model 3 vehicles due to the front suspension lateral link fasteners having the potential to loosen, allowing the lateral link, itself, to separate from the subframe.     

February 26, 2023

Tesla recalled specific 2022 and 2023 Model Y vehicles based on the risk that seat-back frames in the back may not be securely tightened.

February 14, 2023

Tesla recalled specific 2016-2023 Model X vehicles and 2020-2023 Model Y vehicles that are equipped with full self-driving Beta software – or that are pending installation – due to potentially unsafe maneuvers in intersections, including:

  • Driving forward in turn-only lanes
  • Failing to come to complete stops as stop signs
  • Proceeding forward at steady yellow traffic lights without exercising due caution
  • Failing to respond adequately to posted speed limits 


December 12, 2022

Tesla recalled specific 2023 Model Y vehicles based on the front suspension lateral link fasteners potentially being attached improperly to the subframe. 

November 14, 2022

Tesla recalled specific 2023 Model 3 vehicles due to an intermittent problem of one or both tail lights failing to illuminate. Another recall on the same day included specific 2021-2023 Model X vehicles in which the restraint control module (RCM) calibration could cause front passenger airbags to deploy incorrectly during certain kinds of low-speed crashes, which isn’t in compliance with federal occupant crash protection requirements.

October 31, 2022

Tesla recalled specific 2017- 2021 Model S and Model X vehicles due to the electronic power assist steering (EPAS) potentially losing power after hitting a pothole or driving on rough roads.

November 20, 2022

Tesla recalled specific 2017-2022 Model 3 vehicles due to the risk that specific seat belt buckles and anchors in the back may have been incorrectly reassembled during vehicle service. 

September 18, 2023

Tesla recalled specific 2017-2022 Model 3, 2020-2022 Model Y, and 2021-2022 Models S and X vehicles as a result of their window automatic reversal system potentially reacting incorrectly after detecting an obstruction – thus causing them to fail to meet federal standards regarding power operated window systems.

July 20, 2022

Tesla recalled specific 2022 Model S vehicles based on their front bumper carrier structures, potentially altering their crash detection ability, which leads to incorrect front passenger airbag deployment during certain kinds of low-speed crashes.

May 8, 2022

Tesla recalled specific 2020 and 2021 Model 3 and 2021 Model Y vehicles for swapped camera views related to the fisheye and narrow cable terminals being incorrectly installed in the cable harness connector. 

May 2, 2022

Tesla recalled specific 2021 and 2022 Models S and X and 2022 Models 3 and Y vehicles that operate certain firmware releases. The infotainment central processing unit (CPU) has the potential to overheat during the preparation for or process of fast charging, which can lead to the CPU lagging behind or restarting altogether.

April 17, 2022

Tesla recalled specific 2018-2022 Model 3 Performance vehicles due to the unit of speed, such as miles per hour, potentially failing to display on the speedometer while in Track Mode and failing to comply with federal regulations regarding controls and displays.

What Does “Reasonable Number” of Repair Attempts Mean?

When it comes to how many attempts constitute a reasonable number in relation to repairing your Tesla, there is not a simple, definitive answer. The truth is that it depends.

A Minimum of Two Attempts

Generally, the dealer must be given at least two opportunities to correct the defect before California’s lemon law applies. If the concern in question, however, is something as serious as brake failure, two opportunities may be the limit when it comes to a reasonable number. If the defect in question is more of an annoyance than anything else – and doesn’t jeopardize the lives of passengers – the number of repair attempts considered reasonable rises. 

  • Intermittent Concerns

    Not every issue you have with your Tesla – or any other vehicle – will occur consistently. We all know the frustration involved with taking our vehicle in for service, only for that annoying sound to disappear when the repair person is behind the wheel.

In this kind of situation, taking your car in repeatedly – exceeding three or four times – is likely to your advantage. If you are convinced your Tesla has an issue, it very likely does – whether the dealership can duplicate the presenting problem or not. 

Speak with a Tesla lemon law attorney if you believe your vehicle is a lemon. We can assess your legal rights and options and pursue justice for your defective Tesla.

Determining if your Vehicle is a Lemon

Here how you know
  • Is your vehicle 2017
    or Newer?
  • Have you had multiple
    repair attempts?
  • Did the problem start
    in the first 60,000 miles?

If you answered yes
we can help!

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