Exactly What Is the Lemon Law?

Perhaps you've heard of the lemon law. If you ask anyone on the street, they'll probably say that the lemon law protects them if they purchase a car that's defective.

Many people would be hard-pressed to tell you if this law actually does exist, or if a lot of people have used the lemon law.

Well, the lemon law does exist and it's used quite frequently to protect consumers who have bought defective motorized vehicles, electronics, boats, and other products.

What Is the Lemon Law?

Vehicle lemon laws vary from state to state, but they essentially cover you should you be stuck with a defective car, SUV, truck or other motor vehicle. The definition of a lemon vehicle is any vehicle that continuously fails to meet typical standards of quality and functionality.

But not just motorized vehicles are covered. Hearing aids, other assistive devices, MP3 players and other electronics, and pets are covered by lemon laws.

There is a federal warranty law (the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act) that protects all U.S. citizens. Some state lemon laws may not cover used cars and trucks or leased vehicles, only new cars. State laws, such as the California lemon laws, cover anything mechanical on the vehicle, and the federal law covers the same thing.

If you bought a lemon vehicle, you could be entitled to your money back or a replacement vehicle. You may even win a cash settlement depending on your situation and if the faulty vehicle caused you any harm.

The History of the Lemon Law

The description of bad cars as "lemons" started back in the early 1900s. In the late 1800s, people who were upset or ill-mannered were called sour or "lemons." Later, the term was applied to vehicles and other mechanical devices that broke easily or could not be repaired. Essentially, a lemon became the word for something completely useless.

As time went on, and as vehicles became a mainstay in the American culture, it became essential to protect Americans from those wanting to sell poor vehicles to unwary consumers.

After all, could you ever really know if there were some problems with the vehicle you were purchasing? While you could have it looked at by a mechanic, there was no sure way to know the history of a vehicle.

Americans became so dependent on vehicles that it became necessary to put laws in place to protect you and other consumers should you purchase a lemon.

How Do Lemon Laws Help Me?

Vehicle lemon laws are in place to protect you if you purchase a defective car or truck. This means that the lemon laws cover non-conformities that might hinder you from operating or using the vehicle as it was intended.

Of course, the manufacturer can try to show that you abused or damaged the vehicle, and that caused the nonconformity.

Either way, the lemon law is there to bring attention to the fact that manufacturers must maintain high standards of production and to assure that their products strictly adhere to those standards.

Most lemon laws allow for a manufacturer to try to fix the defect, but limit the number of times a producer can try to fix the problem before having to replace it for you, or refund what you paid for the vehicle or other product.

Whom Does the Lemon Law Help?

The lemon law helps everyone! A vehicle is a big purchase, even for those who have a lot of money. Because many people try to sell vehicles that were in accidents or vehicles that may be defective, it's important that we are all protected.

For manufacturers, the lemon law provides a place for them to defend their products if they feel they are being wrongly accused.

The lemon laws were put into place so that everyone has a fair chance to own a decent product, especially something as essential to everyday life as a car.

Where Does the Lemon Law Apply?
Is There an International Lemon Law?

There is a federal lemon law and also lemon laws at the state level for vehicles. And many states have other types of lemon laws as well, for pets and other products.

In the case of the federal lemon law—the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act—the federal government covers anything that costs over $25 and comes with a written warranty. This keeps any car dealer from writing an unfair warranty.

There is no lemon law that is internationally enforced. Although many things are purchased and shipped back and forth via the internet these days, most of your big purchases will have come through U.S. Customs to be sold new here in the United States. Therefore, the lemon law would apply to the business selling the product here in the U.S., or perhaps to the importer.

While some other countries, like Canada, have laws similar to the lemon laws, they may not be called the same thing and would cover different types of products in different ways.

In the United States, lemon laws cover wheelchairs, computers, appliances, hearing aids, and other expensive and necessary tools and items.

In summary, lemon laws are very powerful laws put in place to protect us if we purchase bad products, especially vehicles. The lemon laws are fairly robust and have some good sense behind them.

If you feel you have purchased a lemon from a dealer or retailer, educate yourself on the lemon laws of your state and at the federal level. And when people ask you, "What is the lemon law?" you'll be able to help them learn how to protect themselves from shoddy products.

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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