What Is a Lemon Law? Everything You Need to Know

Are you having car trouble? If so, you may have a lemon on your hands.

However, the lemon law can provide some protection.

A lemon is a car that fails to operate efficiently due to mechanical problems. It may also jeopardize the safety of motorists.

Car problems stem from a variety of reasons, such as improper maintenance and shoddy repairs. However, lemon laws depend on state guidelines.

This article will show you the ins and outs of car protection. Let’s explore.

What is the Purpose of Lemon Laws?

Lemon laws force manufacturers or dealers to replace or repair your vehicle. It protects consumers if their car broke down through no fault of their own.

The term lemon originally derives from a British expression describing a defective object. The term eventually made its way to the United States.

In general, auto lemon laws force manufacturers to cover all items contained in a warranty. To invoke lemon laws, the car must break down while it’s under a warranty. The warranty can also be limited or new.

The states consider your car a lemon if it’s inoperable for 30 days due to the same issue(s). Under lemon laws, you could pay a small warranty deductible (i.e. $50), and the manufacturers will pay for the remaining repairs.

Major car repairs can cost thousands of dollars. Lemon laws also cover major repairs, such as transmission issues

You can find lemon laws in all 50 states. Lemon laws usually cover the following:

  • SUVs
  • Cars
  • Boats
  • Motorcycles
  • Trucks
  • RVs

With that, some states may exclude non-car items, such as motorcycles or RVs. Regardless, you’re covered if your vehicle no longer functions.

In many states, the dealer must work on the car numerous times before consumers can get a refund or a replacement.

  • Example: In Florida, a consumer can send a final notice to a manufacturer after the dealer attempted to fix the car repeatedly. Then, the manufacturer must direct the consumer to the necessary repair shop within 10 days. The manufacturer has another 10 days to perform the repairs.

Do Lemon Laws Cover New Cars?

Lemon laws also apply to new cars. In some cases, new cars are defective the moment they leave the assembly line. The new car may contain a defective component. In other cases, manufacturers may have made the vehicle improperly.

You can find lemon laws for new cars in all 50 states. A new car that’s a lemon must be worked on numerous times.

Additionally, the defective parts must have warranty protection. With that, new lemons are less likely due to federal regulations and stronger manufacturing standards.

Do Lemon Laws Cover Used Cars? 

Across the nation, lemon laws mostly apply to new vehicles. Only six states protect owners of used lemon cars:

  • Hawaii
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Minnesota

Let’s say you live in New Jersey and have a used lemon car. Under state law, a car dealer must provide a warranty when you buy a car off the lot.

The car must not be over 100,000 miles when you purchase the car. To qualify for the lemon law in New Jersey, the used car must come from a licensed dealer. Therefore, the used lemon law in New Jersey doesn’t recognize cars from private dealers.

Regardless of state law, used lemon laws apply when dealers sell a car with a warranty. The warranty must also be in writing. Overall, used car dealers must repair or replace the vehicle if the repairs are no longer viable.

How Can I File a Lemon Law Claim?

The filing process depends on state law. In some cases, you can file through your state’s consumer division. In other cases, you may need to go through arbitration. The court system is another option.

Before filing a claim, give the dealers and manufacturers a reasonable amount of time to fix the vehicle.

  • Example: In Arizona, you must give the manufacturer four tries before you can file a lemon claim.

In most cases, you must allow the manufacturer to repair the vehicle three or four times. Document all repair sessions accordingly.

Ensure the invoices list the problem. Further, make sure that all of your concerns remain in writing.

You should also collect communication between your manufacturer and dealer if possible. Collect phone records as well.

When it comes to repairs, take it to the dealer. Using another mechanic absolves the manufacturer of any responsibility.

Additionally, you should retain a copy of your warranty and other forms of documentation. Don’t rely on your dealer or manufacturer to keep copies on your behalf.

After gathering all documentation, you should file as quickly as possible. The timeframe depends on state law.

  • Example: The lemon law filing deadline in California is four years.

Further, the dealer or manufacturer must make attempts to repair the vehicle within one or two years.

Should I Involve a Lawyer?

A lawyer can help you file your claim. Lemon laws protect consumers, but you may not receive a refund or a replacement. In most cases, a satisfactory outcome is a difficult accomplishment.

Also, attorneys can help you gather the necessary documentation. More importantly, an experienced attorney knows what it takes to win a lemon case.

Above all, find an attorney who specializes in lemon cases. Avoid general-practice attorneys, as lemon cases require special knowledge.

Is a Lemon Law Effective?

Despite the hurdles, a lemon law in your state will protect you if you’re dealing with a defective car. As long as your warranty covers the damage, manufacturers must fix your car.

In severe cases, dealers must provide a full refund or a replacement. Contact an attorney if the dealer refuses to adhere to lemon laws in your state.

Do you need legal help? Read more on our blog to learn more about other law topics.

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