Think your Car is a Lemon? Read your State’s lemon law to see how your State defines a Lemon, and whether your car and its repair history qualify.
Lemon Law Rights
Nearly all State Lemon Law Statutes are similar to the Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act which makes breach of warranty a violation of federal law. All States have enacted their own Warranty Acts and many States have enacted specific Statutes that pertain to Automobile Warranties. If your car is not considered a “lemon” in your State, you do have other recourse.
State Lemon Law Statutes
What is a Lemon?
Generally, if the car has been repaired three to four (or more) times for the same defect within the Warranty Period and the defect has not been fixed, the car qualifies as a Lemon. All States differ so you should consult the Lemon Law Summary and the State Statutes for your particular State. Note that the warranty period may or may not coincide with the Manufacturer’s Warranty.
- Is your vehicle 2010 or newer?
- Has it been in the shop too many times? Too many days?
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If the brakes don’t work, the car won’t go into reverse gear, the darn thing won’t start on cold mornings or hot afternoons, the rear door opens all by itself, the driver’s seat wobbles, or the car chugs along at 30 mph when it should be going 50 mph, then Yes, you may have a Lemon. Providing you’ve given the manufacturer an opportunity to repair the defect.
In most States, 10 different defects during the Warranty Period does not brand the car as a Lemon, but a repair history like that would likely qualify as a lemon under the federal lemon law. In some States, a single defect that might cause Serious Injury makes your car a Lemon if the manufacturer cannot fix the problem within 1 attempt.
You may have a Lemon, but if you do nothing to protect your Consumer Rights, such as documenting your Repairs and allowing the Manufacturer a chance to fix the problem(s), you lose all rights under the various State Warranty Acts.
Do I need a Lawyer?
The answer depends upon which State you Purchased or Registered your car in. In some States and with proper documentation, you simply file a Complaint. In other States, you will need to hire an Attorney. An experienced lemon law attorney will not charge you, and you can connect with some of those at this site.
Who pays the Lawyer?
Only about half of the States allow you to recover Attorney Fees. If your Attorney sues under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, you will be awarded Attorney Fees if you win. Note that an Attorney’s Fee is based upon actual time expended rather than being tied to any percentage of the recovery.
Is a Used or Leased Car protected?
It depends upon which State the car was purchased or leased in. Some states include used and leased cars in their Lemon Law statutes. Some states have separate laws for used vehicles. Some states provide protection only for new cars. In some states, even the Attorney General is unable to tell you if a Leased vehicle is covered due to the way the law is phrased and you will be referred to an Attorney for clarification of the law. See the Lemon Law Summary and the State Statutes for your particular State to determine what is covered.
You won’t know if you have a lemon until sometime after you drive off the lot. But what about your rights before, during and after you buy that new or used car with regard to the car buying process itself? Several important federal laws, including laws for Truth in Lending, Fair Credit Reporting, Electronic Fund Transfers and Equal Credit Opportunities, protect you at all stages of the car buying process. Following these car buying tips will allow you to know whether any of these laws were violated with regard to your purchase and what to do it they were.
What about Motor Homes and Motorcycles?
Most States cover the drive train portion of Motor Homes (that part which is not used for dwelling purposes). Motorcycles are generally not covered but a few states do include them in their lemon law statutes.
If you have a defective Motorcycle, Motor Home, used car, leased car, or a car used for business purposes and your State Lemon Law does not cover these vehicles, you still have other recourses such as the Uniform Commercial Code and the Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (providing you were given a written warranty). Consult with an Attorney that specializes in this area.
Tips to Protect your Investment
- Often times, your new car isn’t suspected of being a Lemon until it is too late (out of warranty, over the mileage limit, etc). If you keep a record of every repair visit, starting with the first one, you will protect your rights under Consumer Laws. Our Repair Log makes it easy to record every Repair Attempt.
- Document everything! This includes notes, who you talk to, what is said, dates and times. Put your complaints in writing and keep a copy for yourself. Be sure to obtain a copy of any Warranty Repair Orders. Demand a copy if necessary and if the dealer will not give you one, be sure to document the fact. When you pick up your car, obtain an Invoice. The dealer may claim that you are not entitled to an Invoice because there were no charges (you were not invoiced for any repairs). It is up to you to prove repair attempts! The final Invoice shows what was or was not repaired.
- Make absolutely sure the dealer records your complaint on the Repair Order exactly as you describe it. You must make sure to describe the defect exactly the same on each repair visit or you may forfeit your rights under the “reasonable attempts to repair for the same defect” clause.
- Ask if there are any Technical Service Bulletins or Manufacturer Recalls that deal with your problem. If there are, ask for copies.
- Be sure that the date, time in, and odometer reading are recorded as well as the date and time you picked up the car. In most States you are covered by the Lemon Law if the vehicle has been in the repair shop for an accumulative number of days during the coverage period.
- If your car fails in the middle of the desert or in the middle lane of rush hour freeway traffic, record the date and time, the amount of time you had to wait for assistance, whether or not you had to rent a car, and your general overall feelings. The emotional trauma dealing with a defective vehicle has a lot of bearing on your case should you need to go to arbitration or court.