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State of Maine

Office of Attorney General

Lemon Law

The Maine Lemon Law protects consumers who have serious defects in their new car. If your car is substantially defective and the dealer cannot fix it, you can apply for a free State Lemon Law Arbitration Hearing and receive a decision within 45 days of the acceptance of your application. You can only apply for State Lemon Law Arbitration within two years from the date your car was originally sold and within the manufacturer's warranty coverage period.

If a Lemon Law Arbitration Hearing is held and the arbitrator finds in favor of the consumer, the consumer may receive a replacement vehicle or refund (consumer's option).

Is My Vehicle Covered Under The Lemon Law?

You may qualify for Lemon Law Arbitration if your vehicle is seriously defective and if you have reported the defect to the manufacturer before either of the following Lemon Law limits have been reached:

  1. two (2) years from the date your vehicle was originally sold, and
  2. the end of the manufacturer express warranty term.

The defects and repairs you are complaining about must occur before either of these periods run out. The Lemon Law can apply to new vehicles, used vehicles (if still within the Lemon Law limits), motorcycles and motor homes.

Due to the large number of consumer inquiries, we must limit our E-mail exchanges. Therefore: to receive an application for the Maine Lemon Law Arbitration Program, provide the following information:

  1. your name, address, and telephone;
  2. make, model, year, mileage, date of purchase; and
  3. a brief description of the problem.

The Office of the Attorney General does not provide legal advice for specific consumer disputes.

E-mail comments, questions

Office of the Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division
Lemon Law Arbitration Program
6 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333-0006
Telephone: 207-626-8848
Fax: 207-626-8812

Consumer's Guide to State Lemon Law Arbitration

A. What is the Maine Lemon Law?

The Maine Lemon Law, 10 M.R.S.A. 1161-1169, protects consumers who have serious defects in their new vehicles. The law defines a "lemon" as a vehicle either purchased or leased in Maine, which has a defect that substantially impairs the use, safety or value of the vehicle, and which has not been repaired after a reasonable number of attempts. If your vehicle is found to be a lemon then the manufacturer must give you a replacement vehicle or refund your money.

B. What is The State Lemon Law Arbitration Program?

If a substantial defect still exists or recurs after a reasonable number of repair attempts, the consumer has the right to a refund or a replacement vehicle. If the manufacturer refuses to take back your vehicle you can seek a State Lemon Law Arbitration Hearing and receive a decision within 45 days of the acceptance of your application. This state arbitration service is provided to you at no cost, except for the $1.00 Lemon Law fee you pay when you buy a new vehicle. Please keep in mind that not all vehicle problems are serious enough to qualify for relief under the Lemon Law. You must apply for State Lemon Arbitration within 2 years from the date your vehicle was originally sold and within the manufacturer's warranty coverage period.

C. What Vehicles are Covered by the Lemon Law?

Any new or used car, motorcycle, van, truck, or recreational vehicle (RV) bought or leased by a consumer in Maine from a dealer and which is still within the Lemon Law's "term of protection."

This Lemon protection period is the length of the manufacturer's express warranty, or two years from the date of delivery to the original consumer buyer, or 18,000 miles of use, whichever comes first./1 You must notify the manufacturer or the dealer about your vehicle's defect before this protection period ends.

The Lemon Law also covers vehicles that are resold during this "term of protection." The only new vehicles not covered are those purchased for a governmental agency, a business which registers three or more vehicles, commercial vehicles weighing 8,500 pounds or more, or vehicles purchased in order to resell them.

D. What Problems are NOT Covered by the Lemon Law?

The Lemon Law does not cover vehicles with the following types of problems:

  1. defects which do not substantially impair the vehicle's use, value, or safety;
  2. defects caused by owner negligence;
  3. defects resulting from accident, or vandalism;
  4. defects resulting from unauthorized repair of the vehicle by a person other than the manufacturer, its agents or authorized dealers.

E. What is the Lemon Law Term of Protection?

The Lemon Law "term of protection" is the time period during which your vehicle can qualify as a "lemon." This lemon protection period is defined as the length of the manufacturer's express warranties, 2 years from the date of delivery to the original consumer buyer, or 18,000 miles of use, whichever comes first. This means that the defects you are complaining about must occur before any of these periods run out. This protection period can be extended if repair services are not available due to strikes, fire, or natural disasters. Under this "term of protection", second owners of vehicles can still be eligible for state lemon law arbitration. This can happen if you purchased the vehicle used but you are still protected by the manufacturer's original express warranty.

F. What is Substantial Impairment?

The Lemon Law only covers serious defects - those which substantially impair the use, safety or value of the vehicle. However, the law does not list specific defects which are considered substantial. You must be able to demonstrate how your vehicle has been substantially impaired. For example, to prove substantial value impairment, you could show that the retail value of your vehicle is significantly less than it would be without the defect. Although a defect may be annoying, it is not necessarily "substantial".

G. How Many Repair Attempts Before Your Vehicle is a Lemon?

The Lemon Law gives the manufacturer, its agent or authorized dealer a "reasonable number of attempts" to repair the substantial defect. The Lemon Law creates a presumption that a reasonable number of attempts has been allowed if either of the following happens within the law's "term of protection" (the manufacturer's express warranty, two years after delivery to the original buyer, or 18,000 miles of use, whichever comes first):

  1. a repair is attempted three or more times for the same substantial defect (at least two of the repair attempts must be by the same dealer or the manufacturer); OR
  2. repair attempts for any substantial defect or combination of defects results in the vehicle being out of service for a cumulative total of 15 or more business days.
  3. NOTE: A business day is any day that the service department of an authorized dealer is open for business.

If the defect continues or recurs despite the repair attempts and still substantially impairs your vehicle, then you can take the next step in the Lemon Law process - offering the manufacturer a final repair opportunity.

If your defect is so serious that you cannot wait (e.g., a safety problem) you do not necessarily have to meet the 3 repair attempts/out of service 15 days standard. However, you must give the manufacturer at least one opportunity to repair and then a "final opportunity to repair".

H. What is the "Final Opportunity To Repair" Requirement?

Once the manufacturer or authorized dealer has not been able to repair the substantial defect, and the problem continues or recurs, you must contact the manufacturer in writing and state that you want a refund or replacement and that you will give the manufacturer one final repair opportunity, of at least seven business days, to fix the defect.

You should send notification of the manufacturer's final opportunity to repair by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the manufacturer's regional office. (See sample.) This way you can prove when the manufacturer received it. You may get the manufacturer's address from your warranty information or from the Attorney General's Lemon Law Arbitration Program (LLAP) at 207-626-8848.

It is essential to keep copies of your "final opportunity to repair" letter, request for a refund or replacement as this is a necessary step before you can receive Lemon Law relief. Once the manufacturer receives your letter, the manufacturer will have 7 business days to make a final repair attempt. You must cooperate with this final repair attempt in order to be eligible for Lemon Law relief.

Make sure you include in your notice both a daytime and nighttime phone number where the dealer or manufacturer may reach you or leave a message. You should be prepared to turn over your vehicle to the manufacturer for a repair attempt after you give the final opportunity notice.

The manufacturer may choose not to use this final opportunity to attempt repair. If after the seven business days the substantial defect has not been repaired, or has been repaired and recurs, you may very well have the right to a refund or replacement under the Lemon Law. If the manufacturer does not voluntarily return your money or provide you with a replacement vehicle, you may request an arbitration hearing.

When you notify the manufacturer of its final opportunity to repair, we recommend you use the Lemon Law Program Form to Notify the Manufacturer of Final Repair Opportunity (The Notification Form is available as a PDF File. Click the link to View the Form or Right Click the link to Save the Form to your computer).

I. How Can I Prove My Vehicle is a Lemon?

If you have a serious problem with your new vehicle, it is very important that you keep complete and accurate records of all contacts with the manufacturer or dealer, and all receipts. You have a right to an itemized bill for any repair work, including warranty repair work, under the Maine Lemon Law (10 M.R.S.A. 1169(9)). You should request a copy of these records, and examine them to be certain that the problem you complained about is listed.

Under the Maine Lemon Law you can also request copies of all reports dealing with your vehicle, such as reports by the dealer or the manufacturer concerning inspection, diagnosis, or test-drives of that vehicle, and any technical reports, bulletins, or notices issued by the manufacturer regarding your vehicle's specific make and model.

You can also have your vehicle evaluated by an independent mechanic and have him testify at your arbitration hearing or if he is not available, write out his diagnosis and submit it to the arbitrator.

J. Am I Only Entitled to a Replacement Vehicle?

If your vehicle qualifies as a lemon, the manufacturer must offer you a refund or replacement vehicle. If the manufacturer offers a replacement vehicle, it must be one that is acceptable to you. You are free to reject a replacement vehicle and demand a refund. However, you cannot reject a refund and demand a replacement.

K. How Much of a Refund Am I Entitled To?

If you choose to get a refund, you will receive the contract price of the vehicle including all credits and allowances for any trade-in vehicle. If you leased your vehicle, you will receive your downpayment, any trade-in allowance, and the total of lease payments made to date.

In either case your refund will be reduced by a reasonable allowance for use. For 2000, the use allowance is $.108 per mile or 10% of the purchase price, whichever is less.

Note: You may keep your vehicle until you have been given a refund or an acceptable replacement vehicle. However, miles driven during this time will be included when calculating the reasonable allowance for use.

Cost Reimbursement

If the manufacturer issues a refund, you will be reimbursed for the following costs:

  1. The total purchase price (total price before you subtracted any rebates or deposits or your trade-in allowance) or, if a leased vehicle, the lease payments made to date; included in the full purchase price are the costs of all dealer added options or services (e.g., radio, air conditioning);
  2. collateral charges, including, sales tax, license and registration fees;
  3. costs incurred by you for towing and storage of the vehicle and for procuring alternative transportation while the vehicle was out of service by reason of repair, or was undriveable;
  4. Reasonable expert witness fees

Refund/Replacement Costs Not Recoverable

The following are not reimbursable as the result of a favorable Lemon Law arbitration decision:

  1. attorney's fees;
  2. time lost from work;
  3. other consequential damages.

L. What Exactly is Lemon Law Arbitration?

Arbitration is an inexpensive and informal way to resolve your complaint without going to court. In arbitration, the consumer and the manufacturer present evidence about the condition of the vehicle to an impartial arbitrator. The arbitrator will then decide the case and issue a written decision. There are two types of lemon arbitration: state-run and manufacturer-sponsored.

  1. State-run Lemon Law Arbitration
  2. State Lemon Arbitration. The state's Lemon Law Arbitration Program hears only Lemon Law cases. You will receive an arbitrator's decision within 45 days of acceptance of your arbitration request. Except for a $1 arbitration fee you pay when you purchase your new vehicle, there is no fee for State Lemon Arbitration. To qualify for State Lemon Arbitration you must have a substantial defect your dealer has not been able to repair and you must have applied for State Lemon Arbitration within 2 years from when your vehicle was first delivered and before the manufacturer's warranty has expired.

    Final Repair Opportunity. Before applying for Lemon Law Arbitration you must have notified the dealer or the manufacturer in writing that your vehicle is a lemon and you want either a refund or replacement. If the manufacturer contacts you within seven business days of receipt of the letter, you must allow a final repair effort during that period.

    Neutral State Arbitrators. The Attorney General has selected the Secretary of State's Hearing Examiners Office in the Department of Motor Vehicles to conduct all State Lemon Law Arbitrations. These Hearing Examiners are neutral professional examiners, and will hold Lemon Law Arbitrations in different locations around the state.

    State Arbitration is "All or Nothing". The purpose of a state-run arbitration hearing is to determine whether or not your vehicle qualifies for refund or replacement under the Lemon Law. If the arbitrator determines that your vehicle meets the Lemon Law standards, you will be awarded a full refund (less the use allowance and the amount of any previous settlement from the manufacturer) or replacement. If the arbitrator decides that your vehicle is not a "lemon," there will be no award.

  1. Manufacturer-sponsored Arbitration
  2. Manufacturer Arbitrations. You may also request manufacturer-sponsored arbitration for Lemon Law defects, as well as for other less serious problems. A manufacturer arbitrator or panel will not necessarily apply the Lemon Law standards. The arbitrator can order additional repairs or partial or full refunds. Most manufacturers are bound by the decisions of their arbitration programs. However, if you are dissatisfied with the results of manufacturer-sponsored arbitration, you may then request state-run arbitration or you can sue in court under the Maine Lemon Law or other Maine laws. Your warranty booklet should provide you with additional information about the manufacturer's arbitration program or you can contact its zone or regional office.

    Differences Between State and Manufacturer Arbitrations. The two main differences between the manufacturers' arbitration programs and the State Lemon Law Arbitration are:

    1. The manufacturer's arbitration program can order additional repairs, but the state arbitration program can only order a replacement vehicle or a full refund or no relief at all; and
    2. The manufacturer is bound by its own arbitrator's decision, but can appeal a state's arbitration decision.
  1. Lemon Law Court Actions
  2. Lemon Court Options. If the state arbitrator's decision is not favorable you can appeal it to Superior Court or you can initiate on your own a new court action. This new court action can ask for Lemon Law remedies or other relief that may be available to you under the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act, the Maine Uniform Commercial Code, common law or other state or federal laws. Consult an attorney. If you are considering an appeal or a new court action you should certainly consult an attorney.

M. Outline of the Lemon Law Process

              Substantial Defect
                     /  \
       Three repair      15 business days
       attempts for      out of service
       the same defect   for one or more defects
                     \  /
              Substantial Defect
                   continues
                       |
         Manufacturer's seven-business day
              final repair opportunity
                       |
              Substantial Defect
                   continues
                       |
           Right to refund/replacement
                       |
      Right to State Lemon Law Arbitration

N. For Help

Information on your rights under the Maine Lemon Law and State Lemon Law Application Form:

    Lemon Law Arbitration Program
    Department of the Attorney General
    Public Protection Division
    6 State House Station
    Augusta, Maine  04333-0006
    207-626-8848

To seek arbitration directly from the manufacturer, contact:

    Maine Automobile Dealers Association
    180 Civic Center Drive
    Augusta, Maine  04330
    207-623-3882

To inquire whether your vehicle has a serious defect or has been recalled, consider:

    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
    1-800-424-9393

    Center For Auto Safety (recall and defect information)
    202-328-7700

How To File A Maine Lemon Law Complaint

To apply for State Lemon Law Arbitration, your vehicle must be:

  1. purchased or leased in Maine less than 2 years ago; and
  2. covered by the original warranty from the manufacturer.

If your vehicle has been repaired 3 times for the same serious problem, or the vehicle has been out of service for 15 business days for repairs of one or more problems (does not have to be consecutive days) before 18,000 miles and it is currently not fixed, then:

  1. Obtain repair records from the dealer for each repair.
  2. Contact the State Lemon Law Arbitration Program for a Lemon Law Application and Final Opportunity to Repair Notice: Telephone 207-626-8848.
  3. Send written notice (Final Repair Notice) the manufacturer by Certified (return receipt) mail. This notifies the manufacturer that your applying for Lemon Law Arbitration and that you are giving a final opportunity to repair existing problems. A form letter for this purpose will be sent to you with the application.
  4. Allow the manufacturer at least 7 business days after receipt of your Final Opportunity to Repair letter to make the necessary repair. (You may withdraw your vehicle after this 7 day period has ended.)
  5. If the defect(s) were not corrected by the final repair attempt, or if the defect recurs and you want an arbitration hearing, do not repair the vehicle as it is your evidence. File your Lemon Law application before your vehicle is two years old and before the manufacturer's warranty expires.
  6. You must prove to an arbitrator that:
    • The vehicle's defect(s) has been repaired at least once before 18,000 miles.
    • The vehicle's defect(s) is substantial and it impairs the vehicle's use, safety or value.
    • The vehicle's defect(s) continues and has not been corrected.
    • The manufacturer has been given adequate opportunity to repair the vehicle.
    • The manufacturer has been given a Final Opportunity to Repair.
  7. If your first repair attempt on the claimed defect has occurred before 18,000 miles, but the other repair attempts occurred after 18,000 miles you may still be eligible.

The Maine Lemon Law allows consumers with a severely defective new vehicle to have their cases heard by a state arbitrator, free of charge. Hearings take place and a written decision is issued within 45 days of acceptance of the completed Lemon Law application. If the arbitrator finds in favor of the consumer, the consumer may received a replacement of the vehicle (if the manufacturer makes one available) or the consumer may choose a refund.


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