What to Expect from a Lemon Law Buyback: Process, Timeline, and Compensation

When a consumer visits a dealership, they hope their new car will bring comfort, reliability, and convenience. The reality is that some vehicles disappoint consumers — approximately 150,000 vehicles turn out to be lemons in the United States.

A lemon translates to a frustrating experience for buyers. 

Your vehicle can break down or stall anytime without notice disrupting your travel or business plans. You’ll also need to dig deeper into your pockets to cater for rental cars, accommodation charges, repair costs, and other incidental expenses.

Fortunately, California lemon laws protect consumers who buy defective vehicles through buyback or replacement. Understanding the Lemon law buyback process, timeline, and compensation requirements can make a difference in claim processing.

If you’re stuck with a defective vehicle, consider consulting an experienced California lemon law attorney about your legal options.

The Lemon Law Buyback Process: From Filing a Claim to Receiving Compensation           

The intention of buying a vehicle is to enjoy its convenience, luxury features, and good times with your family or friends as you travel. Unfortunately, when a car turns out to be a lemon, it brings surmountable inconveniences and unplanned expenses.

Thankfully, California lemon laws protect vehicle owners who buy defective vehicles— through refunds or replacements. If you’ve found yourself in an awkward situation with a lemon car, read the following steps to get a buyback from a manufacturer.

Step 1: Take Your Vehicle to the Dealership For Repairs

While California lemon laws protect vehicle owners, they stipulate how to redeem their rights. Therefore, they must take their vehicle to the manufacturer or an authorized ‘representative’ for repairs.

Taking the vehicle for repairs serves two purposes; first, it’s a notification of the defect to the manufacturer. It’s also an opportunity for the manufacturer to cure the defect through repairs or recalls.

It’s also ill-advised to seek repairs from an independent repair shop which usually violates the terms of your warranty and lemon law rights.

Step 2: Give the Dealership a “Reasonable Number of Attempts” to Fix the Defect

Lemon law protection is activated if the manufacturer or dealer doesn’t repair a serious warranty defect after a “reasonable number of repair attempts.” As a consumer, you must give a manufacturer ample time to fix the fault before filing a lemon law claim.

What constitutes a “reasonable number of attempts” will differ based on circumstances and severity of defects. It also depends on whether the manufacturer can quickly diagnose the problem and the mileage separating the visits.

In a nutshell, no fixed number establishes a “reasonable number of attempts.” However, California’s lemon law presumption offers the following guidelines determining whether a manufacturer has made a reasonable number of repair attempts.

  • The manufacturer or dealer hasn’t fixed the defect after four or more attempts.
  • The car’s defect can cause severe bodily injury or death if driven, and the manufacturer has made two unsuccessful repair attempts.
  • The vehicle has been in the repair shop for more than 30 days— not necessarily consecutive for repairs covered by its warranty.

It’s worth noting that these guidelines are not absolute rules but regulations that offer direction when determining the effort of a manufacturer. Only a judge or arbitrator decides whether a manufacturer met a reasonable number of attempts.

During the dispute resolution, many manufacturers argue the need for more repair attempts to fix the defect. As a vehicle owner, you need an experienced lemon law attorney to counter such claims based on facts.

Step 3: Request a Repair Order From the Dealership

Each time you visit a dealership, be specific on the issue of concern. If it’s a repeat issue, let them know and have it recorded. Also, request a repair order whenever you drop the vehicle for warranty repairs.

The document describes the vehicle brought in for repairs, the vehicle defect, and the mileage when the car was brought in for repairs. Ensure you accurately and comprehensively describe the vehicle’s defect so the manufacturer can capture it in the repair order.

The print-out will serve as a paper trail for the vehicle defects and the repair efforts you made to have the vehicle fixed.

Step 4: Gather All Relevant Documentation

The success of any legal claim, including a lemon law claim, depends on the availability of solid evidence. Below is a list of documents you need to file a lemon law claim. The more copies you have, the easier and the higher the likelihood of succeeding in a buyback claim.

In addition to a repair order, gather the following documents:

  • Purchase or Lease Documents: Your attorney will ask you for the original purchase or lease documents to ascertain your interest in the defective vehicle. Either of these documents contains the date of purchase, buying price—which includes rebates or trade-in information—and any aftermarket items added.
  • Repair Invoice: It is similar to a repair order because it describes all repairs the dealership attempted, including a detailed description you offered as you dropped the vehicle. More importantly, it explains what the dealership tried, succeeded, or failed to fix. The dealership will give you a repair invoice when you pick up your vehicle.
  • Manufacturer’s Warranty: The manufacturer’s warranty is included in the owner’s manual you receive after buying a vehicle. It is a crucial document as it contains an express warranty from the manufacturer, plus details of what is covered in the warranty and the contract period. It also sets out the buyer’s obligations, such as regular maintenance. If you cannot qualify for a buyback under lemon laws, you can pursue the manufacturer for breach of warranty.
  • Correspondence: You’ll have a stronger claim if you have records of communications between the dealership, manufacturer, and third parties such as the federal government.  
  • Additional Documentation: The above documentation is the most important for a lemon law claim. However, if you find supplementing documentation, it’ll strengthen your case.

Here’s a list that can strengthen your lemon law claim:

  • History of accidents
  • Maintenance records
  • Vehicle registration
  • Evidence of incidental expenses such as rental vehicle receipt or accommodation
  • A detailed timeline of your vehicle repairs

Step 5: Hire a Reputable Lemon Law Attorney

After the manufacturer has failed to fix the defect, it’s the right time to discuss your case with a lemon law attorney.  Filing a lemon law buyback is not a walk in the park, so you need a knowledgeable and experienced person on lemon law matters.

Here’s how a lemon law attorney can help your case:

  • Lemon Law Buyback Calculation: A lawyer will evaluate the incidental costs, car buying price, outstanding loan balance, legal fees, and legal fees to generate a figure to work with while pursuing the claim.
  • Represent You to Their Attorneys: Most manufacturers hire highly experienced and knowledgeable attorneys. If you go it alone, you’re at the mercy of a manufacturer to get a fair offer equivalent to your loss and suffering due to a lemon car.
  • Help You Make Informed Choices: A lemon law attorney will walk beside you in the entire process and help you make informed choices regarding settlement, litigation tactics, and helping you surrender the vehicle after the buyback.

Step 6: File a Lemon Law Buyback Claim

The lawyer will help you gather any required documents to file a claim. Then, the lawyer will prepare the necessary paperwork and file the lemon law claim informing the manufacturer that you want a buyback.

Step 7: Negotiate Buyback Terms

Manufacturers will try to the best of their ability to frustrate your claim. Therefore, working with a lemon law attorney is necessary to represent your interest during negotiations. The role of the lemon law attorney is to validate your claim and negotiate clear buyback terms with the manufacturer.

Once the manufacturer tables an initial offer, the attorney’s work is to negotiate a fair settlement amount. The manufacturer will settle the buyback claim if the negotiation efforts are successful.

Most buyback claims settle; however, working closely with a California lemon law attorney prepared to litigate aggressively in case the manufacturer resists is a good idea.

Step 8: Proceed to Trial

If the manufacturer refuses to settle your lemon law buyback claim, your case will likely proceed to trial. Usually, the court trials are lengthy and complicated, highlighting the need to work with a lemon law attorney with hands-on experience dealing with court cases.

Step 9: Return the Defective Vehicle to the Manufacturer

If your lawyer has agreed to clear buyback terms with the manufacturer, it’s time to return the defective vehicle to the dealership.

Step 10: Receive Payment From the Manufacturer

The manufacturer will issue a cheque for the lemon law buyback proceeds. The cash settlement is an equivalent of the buying price less mileage offset. The buyback amount will include incidental expenses such as accommodation, rental vehicle, and repair costs.

Once you receive the payment, you can use the funds how you like or buy another vehicle. 

How Long Does a Lemon Law Buyback Take? A Timeline of the Repurchase Process

A lemon law buyback can be resolved within 30 days. Nonetheless, each case is unique, with some having delays explaining why some cases take three to six months. In most cases, a delay arises when a manufacturer refuses to buy back your vehicle or suggests an insufficient offer.

When a manufacturer offers an insufficient amount, the case has to go through litigation for a consumer to receive compensation for their faulty vehicle. According to Lemon laws, if a claim proceeds to litigation, the manufacturer must pay the attorney fees if the consumer wins.

Compensation for Your Lemon Car: What You Can Expect from a Buyback

If a manufacturer buys back a vehicle that you purchased, it must refund the following items:

  • Down payments and any subsequent payments you made towards the vehicle—including finance charges
  • Outstanding loan balance related to the purchase
  • Formal fees such as registration fees, taxes, and service contract
  • Incidental charges, including repair costs, towing charges, rental vehicle costs, and accommodation expenses

If it was a leased vehicle, the manufacturer must pay:

  • Payments made on the lease
  • Deposits and other payments due at the signing
  • Collateral charges
  • Fees required to terminate your lease, including early lease termination expenses.

If the manufacturer is found to have willingly sold or leased a lemon vehicle, they may be required to pay civil penalties up to twice the buyback amount.

Maximizing Your Buyback: Tips for Negotiating a Fair Settlement with the Manufacturer

The Lemon law buyback process is complex; however, the right approach will increase your chances of a successful outcome and land a fair settlement.

Below are helpful tips for negotiating a fair settlement with the manufacturer.

Tip #1. Understand Your Rights Under California Lemon Law

Familiarize yourself with California lemon laws, your rights, and manufacturer obligations. You might land an insufficient offer if you approach the Lemon Law buyback process without proper guidance.

Here are a few crucial lemon laws for the buyback process.

Vehicles Covered By Lemon Laws

California lemon laws apply to new and used vehicles with manufacturers’ new warranties. 

It protects the following vehicles:

  • Cars, vans, pick-up trucks, SUVs, and motorcycles
  • Vehicles bought or leased for personal, household, or family purposes
  • Vehicles purchased or hired for commercial reasons
  • Vehicles used for demonstrations by dealers
  • Components of a motorhome— chassis, chassis cab, and drive train

Vehicle Defects Covered by Lemon Laws

California lemon laws protect consumers who buy vehicles with persistent defects. More importantly, lemon laws consider a vehicle defect if it substantially impairs its value, use, and safety.

Examples of defects covered by Lemon laws include airbag defects, brake failure, power steering loss, and electrical defects. Although lemon laws cover many substantial defects, there are a few exceptions, including:

  • Defects caused by accidents
  • Defects due to owner negligence
  • Defects caused by an-authorized repairs or alterations
  • Defects that don’t impair the car’s value, use, or safety

Tip #2. Watch Out for Lemon Law Technicalities

Lemon law requires manufacturers to refund a consumer vehicle’s buying price less mileage offset. They are also required to pay for manufacturer installations that result in a price hike; however, a manufacturer is not obliged to pay for additional modifications installed by the owner.

Work closely with a California lemon law attorney to navigate the following problems that can lead to unfair buyback offers.

Negative Equity

Negative equity in financed car acquisitions is a common unfair practice in car buybacks. It occurs when you owe more to the financier than the car’s actual value. The negative equity becomes a burden or complicated to the owner if they decide to trade in the defective vehicle.

For instance, a vehicle owner owes the bank $30,000 and trades with another unit worth $25,000, which turns out to be a lemon. If the manufacturer buys back the defective unit for $25,000, the owner will still owe $5,000, leading to negative equity. Most manufacturers refuse to pay negative equity, which could leave you with debt for a vehicle you no longer own.

Mileage Offset

California lemon laws allow manufacturers to deduct mileage offset from the lemon law buyback proceeds. However, some automakers take advantage of car buyers and leases by subtracting the incorrect mileage offset.

The mileage offset is based on the miles you drove the vehicle before taking it for a warranty repair. Although the formula for calculating mileage offset is straightforward, dealers try manipulating the facts to expand it and reduce the buyback amount.

For instance, an automaker will push the first date of repairs as late as possible to maximize the ‘good’ miles. Fortunately, your lemon law attorney will return the manufacturer to an earlier repair date to improve your settlement amount.

Make Use of a Lemon Law Calculator

To maximize what you’re entitled to, it’s essential to understand what you’re entitled to under California lemon laws. A lemon law calculator is a valuable tool for generating a rough estimate of the buyback amount that you’re entitled to.

A lemon law calculator considers factors such as the car’s buying price, miles on the vehicle, remaining loan balance, registration fee, remaining lease obligations, and incidental costs.

Tip #3. Hire an Experienced Lemon Law Attorney

An experienced lemon law attorney will help you negotiate a fair buyback amount for your vehicle. You’ll also need a legal expert to advocate for your rights and help you navigate the Lemon Law buyback process.

Get the Compensation You Deserve; Speak to an Experienced California Lemon Law Attorney

Many things go wrong for those who accidentally buy lemon cars. For instance, you can’t rely on your vehicle to rush your sick child to hospital. A lemon car may also unexpectedly develop mechanical problems, making you late for an important business meeting.

It’s, therefore, wise to work closely with an experienced California lemon law attorney who’ll passionately fight for your rights.

At LemonLaw123, our lead attorney Valerie G. Campbell has a 99% success rate, boosting our confidence to represent you.

Contact us online or call us at 657.529.5239 for a free case review.

Valerie G. Fernandez Campbell

Valerie G. Fernandez Campbell, known as The Lemon Law Lady, has dedicated her entire legal career to the specialized field of Lemon Law, a journey that began immediately after her
graduation from UCLA School of Law.

With a 99% success rate and a policy of no fees unless you win, her practice stands as a testament to her expertise in California’s Lemon Law, her commitment to her clients, and her unwavering dedication to justice and consumer rights.

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