If you purchase or lease a vehicle, you have certain expectations about how well the car or truck will perform. Conversely, there can be times when a vehicle you buy performs well below your expectations. Thankfully, California’s lemon law buyback can help you out.

At Neale & Fhima, we know about California’s lemon law buyback process. If you are dealing with a lemon in California, reach out to our team today. Our lawyers can teach you about California lemon law buyback and help you move forward with your lemon law claim.

Why would a manufacturer buy back a car?

Manufacturers typically only buy back a car when they are faced with a lawsuit that they think they can’t win. Manufacturers make it very difficult for frustrated consumers who have purchased a defective vehicle and are looking for a remedy.  That’s why it’s so important to have the best possible lemon law attorney on your side. Our legal team is top-notch, and we have a 99% success rate in these cases!


Understanding The Lemon Law Buyback Process

At first glance, the lemon law buyback process in California can seem overwhelming. But a skilled lemon law lawyer can explain the steps of the buyback process in detail and respond to any questions or concerns you may have.

Here are the steps in the California lemon law buyback process:

  • You attempt to get your vehicle repaired and save all your work orders and receipts.
  • When repair attempts fail, you hire a skilled lemon law lawyer in California to represent you.
  • Your attorney will file a legal claim against the manufacturer to notify them that you are seeking a remedy for a defective vehicle.
  • Your attorney will calculate the buyback amount that you are owed and negotiate on your behalf with the manufacturer.
  • You will receive the compensation you deserve.

Neale & Fhima can walk you through the buyback process for lemons in California. If you partner with a lemon law attorney from our team, you should expect aggressive legal representation. Our lawyer will work hard to ensure you get the optimal result from your lemon law claim.

What Brands of Vehicles Qualify for Lemon Law Protection?

Our lawyers allocate the time, energy, and resources necessary to make sure you know what to expect during your lemon law case.  To date, our team has helped California residents in lemon law cases involving nearly all car manufacturers that sell cars in California, including, but not limited to:

  • Acura
  • Audi
  • Buick
  • BMW
  • Chevrolet
  • Cadillac
  • GMC
  • Dodge
  • Polestar
  • Jeep
  • Honda
  • Ford
  • Volkswagen
  • Tesla
  • Volvo
  • Lincoln
  • Land Rover
  • Porsche
  • Kia
  • Mercedes
  • Chrysler
  • Hyundai.

If you want legal help with a lemon law claim against any of these manufacturers or others, we are here for you. A California lemon law attorney from our team can review your case. Next, we can help you take legal action against the manufacturer and ensure you receive plenty of legal help with your lemon law claim.

California Lemon Law Stats

Recent research shows some interesting trends in California lemon law cases:

  • There are huge variations in the frequency with which manufacturers are sued under the lemon law.  Toyota is the least-often sued and General Motors (GM) is the most-often sued in lemon law cases, relative to their California market share from 2018-2021.  Toyota was taken to court under a lemon law claim once for every 2,029 new Toyota vehicles registered in California during this period, while GM was sued once for every 78 new GM vehicles registered in California. Consumers who purchased a GM vehicle were roughly 26 times more likely to file a lemon law claim that were consumers who purchased Toyota vehicles.
  • Jaguar and Chrysler vehicles came in second and third in the frequency of lemon law claims filed from 2018-2021 in California.
  • More than 7 million vehicles were registered in California from 2018 through 2021, and 34,397 of these wound up in state court lemon law litigation.

How Does the Buyback Program Work?

California’s lemon law buyback program is based on the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. If you purchase a defective vehicle, you are entitled to a refund, or the vehicle can be replaced at the manufacturer’s expense. At the same time, you must prove your vehicle is a lemon according to legal guidelines.

Some defects do not qualify for a lemon law claim in California. Before filing a claim, you must have given the manufacturer or its dealers a “reasonable” number of attempts to fix the car or truck or vehicle. his means you should make sure your repair attempts are made at an authorized dealership rather than by a neighborhood mechanic. On top of this, the defect must be one that substantially impairs the vehicle’s use, value, or safety.

If your vehicle qualifies as a lemon and you choose to opt for a buyback settlement, your settlement will include the below damages.

Determining Buyback Value in California

Generally, if you have a valid lemon law claim, the manufacturer will buy back your vehicle for the entire amount you paid for it, if that is what you want. This includes:

  • Money for your initial down payment
  • All of the monthly payments you have made so far
  • Sales tax
  • Interest charges
  • Collateral charges
  • Compensation to pay off the balance of your car loan
  • Incidental or consequential expenses, such as rental car fees, and more.

The manufacturer is not responsible for any late fees you may have incurred if you did not make your car payments on time. Also, if your vehicle’s problems did not start immediately when you drove the vehicle off the dealership’s lot, a mileage-use reduction formula will apply for the number of miles you have driven the vehicle before the vehicle was brought in for repair for the defect. To understand how this formula works, we can provide an example.

You can purchase a vehicle for $50,000, and mechanical problems may begin when the odometer reads 10,000 miles. In this scenario, you will have to compensate the dealer for the value of the 10,000 miles, this amount will be deducted from your settlement check.

This total is $4,167 less than the purchase price, calculated by dividing the odometer reading at the time of the first repair visit for the defect by 120,000 and multiplying it by the purchase price.

In the alternative, a consumer can opt for a replacement vehicle, or can keep the vehicle and accept a cash settlement, where the manufacture compensates the consumer for their difficulties with the vehicle and the consumer maintains possession of the vehicle.


Making Sense of The Lemon Law Buyback Program in California

Very often, consumers worry that the specifics of their lemon law claim may not quite fit the exact guidelines of the lemon law as it is written. Do not stress over this. An experienced lemon law attorney at our firm can assess whether you are eligible for support under the Song-Beverly Act.  We can explain how the lemon law in California applies to new, used, and leased vehicles.

A lemon law claim in California can get resolved relatively quickly, but not always. A good attorney will keep you informed about timing as your claim progresses. If you want to know more about value, timing, and steps in the lemon law buyback process, call us at 949-661-1007.

How Long It Takes to Complete the Lemon Law Buyback Process

The California lemon law is open for interpretation. This can make resolving a lemon law claim difficult, even if you feel your case is easy to understand. A lemon law claim often can be resolved in as little as 30 days. Sometimes, it can take months or longer if a manufacturer is balking or if there are complexities in your specific case. The more experienced your attorney, the easier it is to avoid delays and the smoother the process. In the best-case scenario, a skilled lawyer can present a compelling argument to a manufacturer and expedite payment for your buyback or settlement.

How The Lemon Law Statute of Limitations in California Works

The statute of limitations for filing a lemon law claim in California is four years from the date you knew or should have known that the vehicle was a lemon. This does not mean that you cannot bring a lemon law claim if you have had your vehicle for more than four years. In some instances, people have been able to resolve lemon law claims with vehicles over 10 years old.

If you have purchased or leased a lemon, you should start the buyback process immediately. After the statute of limitations has passed, a judge may dismiss your case. At this time, you are fully responsible for any costs to repair any vehicle defects, even if you did not cause them.

Any time you have questions about the lemon law statute of limitations in California, consult with an attorney. This allows you to find out if you are still eligible to file a lemon law claim. If so, your attorney may encourage you to collect copies of your repair bills, work orders, and other evidence to support your case.


Challenges That Can Come Up During the Lemon Law Buyback Process

You are responsible for showing that your vehicle has a “substantial” defect. Minor defects such as tiny tears in upholstery or other minor imperfections likely will not qualify.  Examples of substantial defects include, but are not limited to:

  • Defective brakes
  • Engine defects
  • Transmission defects
  • Faulty steering
  • Air conditioning (AC) defects
  • Noise problems
  • Battery defects
  • Axel defects
  • Water intrusion
  • The vehicle frequently stalls
  • Navigation and radio defects
  • Headlights or taillights malfunction
  • Electrical problems.


A vehicle is a lemon when it has “nonconformities,” which are defined as any defect or malfunction that is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.  Nonconformities significantly impair the safety, use or value of the vehicle.  There is no requirement under the law that the defect actually endangers you.

Reasonable Number of Attempts to Repair

Before being eligible to file a claim, you need to have made a “reasonable number of attempts” to get your new vehicle repaired. While the law is somewhat vague about how many trips to the mechanic constitute a “reasonable number” of repair attempts, you need to give the dealership a meaningful opportunity to fix it first before commencing legal action.

Should I buy a manufacturer buyback?

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provides guidance about purchasing lemon law buyback vehicles here.  Whether or not you should buy a manufacturer buyback depends on your situation.  A lemon law buyback vehicle is one that has been reacquired by an automaker on or after Jan. 1, 1996, due to warranty defects.  The vehicle is then repaired by the manufacturer and resold to a consumer as a clearly labeled buyback.  This way, a consumer is put on notice regarding the type of vehicle he or she is purchasing.

According to the DMV, the manufacturer must:

  1. Request that the California Certificate of Title and the registration certificate be labeled “Lemon Law Buyback”
  2. Title the vehicle in the manufacturer’s name
  3. Attach a decal to the vehicle, which states “Lemon Law Buyback”
  4. Affix the decal in one of the following locations:
    • left door frame
    • frame of the major entry into the vehicle, like the front right door frame of a motor home
    • left side of a vehicle without doors, as in the case of a motorcycle.

The DMV also has requirements for the seller/dealership. A seller must:

  1. Notify the buyer on letter-size paper of the following:
    • The year, make, model, and vehicle identification number (VIN)
    • The vehicle title is marked “Lemon Law Buyback”
    • A descriptions of each defect reported by the vehicle’s original buyer or lessee
    • Any repairs made to the vehicle to correct each defect.
  2. Tell the truth and acknowledge that the vehicle is a buyback if a potential buyer asks. California law requires dealers to disclose when a vehicle is a buyback.

Whether or not purchasing a buyback is right for you depends on a few factors:

  • Are you willing to take a risk that the vehicle could have additional problems?
  • Is the money you save worth the risk you could be taking?
  • What will you do if the vehicle does have future problems?

Lemon law buybacks are usually sold at significantly reduced prices, often thousands of dollars below the MSRP sticker price. And buyback vehicles are often practically new. A buyback, which is considered a used car, can include an express written warranty. For some consumers – particularly those with a higher tolerance for risk – this can be a very attractive offer. For other consumers who are risk averse, a buyback may not be the right option. It’s really a matter of personal choice depending on your comfort level.

Why Choose Neale & Fhima

Neale & Fhima lemon law attorneys are among the best and the brightest in California. We have an outstanding 99% record of success in handling lemon law claims for our clients. The team at Neale & Fhima is committed to each client’s case, and we give you our full attention.

Here are a few of the reasons you should choose our firm.

We Know the Law

California’s lemon law is a fine example of how the state legislature empowers consumers. When it comes to clarity, however, the text of the lemon law leaves much to be desired. Our attorneys understand the intricacies of the statute and many court opinions interpreting it and can share our legal knowledge and insights with you.

We Value Client Relationships

High-volume law offices think of clients as nothing more than a case file. The file gets passed around until it ends up with a paralegal who just wants to finish it and move on. We enjoy getting to know our clients, which helps us create a settlement that aligns with your best interests.

We Have Many Years of Experience in Lemon Law Cases in California

There is no need to settle for a lemon law attorney that lacks comprehensive case experience. Our attorneys have over 40 years of combined experience representing clients throughout California. We know what it takes to win or settle a lemon law case and will do everything we can to help you achieve your desired case result.

We Have an Outstanding Track Record in Lemon Law Cases

Our success rate is unmatched by many lemon law attorneys in California. We continue to look for ways to improve, too. With our help, you can position yourself for success in your lemon law case.

We Offer Free Consultations

If you are uncertain about whether to move forward with your lemon law case, there is no need to worry. You can meet with a lemon law attorney from our team for free. Following the consultation, you may quickly discover why we are a top law firm for those needing a lemon law attorney in California.

We Make Sure You Know What You Are Getting with Us

A handful of manufacturers dominate the U.S. auto market. We repeatedly go up against these same companies. This allows us to anticipate how they will respond to claims involving specific models and mechanical defects.

Call Neale & Fhima Now to Get Your Buyback Started

The team at Neale & Fhima can put our legal experience to work for you in your lemon law buyback case.  You don’t have to remain frustrated with a vehicle that spends more time in the repair shop than on the road.  There is a solution, and our skilled lemon law attorneys can help you get it.

For more information or to request a free consultation, please contact us online or call us at 949-661-1007.

Attorney Aaron Fhima

Attorney Aaron Fhima is a trial attorney who has secured numerous settlements and verdicts against large corporations and some of the largest auto manufacturers in the world. Representing consumers and injury victims throughout the state of California, Aaron’s practice areas include personal injury, and lemon law litigation. Aaron has a long record of success taking on large defense firms; and he doesn’t hesitate to take cases to trial when necessary to enforce his clients’ rights.


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    At Neale & Fhima, we have extensive experience helping clients file successful Lemon Law claims and our services are covered by the manufaturer.


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