New Car Lemon Laws

States have lemon laws to protect consumers who buy problem new cars. Each state has its own version of the new car lemon laws.

You, as the consumer, have the right to demand a refund of the price of the vehicle you purchased (plus repair costs), or you may opt for a replacement vehicle.

This law is valid if the defect is one that affects your ability to use your car, compromises safety, or affects the fair market value of your car.

The law also covers situations where your car has been repaired several times (for the same problem each time) and the problem still exists. The repairs should have been undertaken while your vehicle was still under warranty.

If the car you are driving is a lemon, you may be able to get a new car replacement or a refund of the price you paid for the car plus all associated fees, such as the sales tax, registration, interest and finance charges.

Where Did the Lemon Law Come From?

The lemon law, which was passed to protect consumers, is not a very old law. The first lemon laws were not in force until 1982.

In 1972, Rosemary Shahan took her vehicle to the dealership to have it repaired. The vehicle was a brand new one at that time. Frustrated at the slow rate her car was being repaired, after five months she picketed the dealership in Lemon Grove, California.

This was not the only thing Rosemary did. There were other vehicle owners in the area who were also having problems with their cars. So Rosemary organized the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS) with other car owners who had lemons that were not being repaired. Through this endeavor and working with the Connecticut and California legislatures, the first lemon laws were passed.

Are Lemon Laws the Same in Every U.S. State?

Although the basis for most state lemon laws is the Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, lemon laws are not the same in every state. The state law that applies to a vehicle that is suspected of being a lemon is for the state in which the car was bought.

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act says that any violation of a warranty contract between the consumer and the dealership is a violation of federal law. This also includes the manufacturer.

This lemon law statute allows the purchaser of the vehicle to receive a new vehicle, the expenses paid for all repairs, as well as legal fees to get the due compensation.

In 1993, the last of the state new car lemon laws was passed. This ensures that everyone living in the US has legal recourse should their new vehicle not perform to the standards expected by law.

When you suspect that your car is a lemon, your car insurance company may recommend that you take the car to a certified mechanic and tell them what you suspect. But the insurance company cannot step in and do anything to make the dealer take the car back.

The lemon law in many states specifies that the car title must be labeled as a "buy back" car by the insurance companies, but unfortunately, many vehicles are finding their way to states without this requirement. They're then being re-titled without the buyback specification.

How To Tell If Your Car Is a Lemon

When it comes to defining what qualifies your car as a lemon, the law in the state where you purchased your car takes precedence. However, the following points are pretty much standard in all states:

  • If mechanical or body problems do not allow you to use your new car in a safe manner, the car as a lemon.

  • If your new vehicle has been serviced by a reputable shop four times for the same mechanical problem, the car is considered a lemon.

  • If your car has been in repair for 30 days or more within the first year to two years or 12,000 to 18,000 miles, it is also considered a lemon vehicle.

If you were sold a lemon by a dealership that is not taking you seriously, it may be in your best interests to hire a lemon law lawyer.

Attorneys like to have the chance to get involved in these cases as early as possible. The thought that you have talked to a lemon law attorney, and especially if s/he will draft a letter to the dealership about the concerns with your vehicle, will often be enough to get your desired results.

If you're unlucky enough to own a lemon vehicle, knowledge of the new car lemon laws can mean the difference between being stuck with your lemon and driving a new car that works properly.

NOTE:The information here is not legal advice and is only presented to you so you can know your options if you purchased a lemon. As with any legal issue, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney.


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