What are lemon laws?

July 19 2018

Buying a new car only to deal with repeated mechanical problems can leave a sour taste in your mouth -- hence the term "lemon." But a lemon is a lot more serious than a catchy play on words. It's a defective vehicle that fails to live up to warranty terms, and there are lemon laws in place to protect consumers against making such a purchase.

What are lemon laws? 

The 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and the Uniform Commercial Code give federal protection to consumers. Meaning, if you purchase a defective vehicle that fails to provide reliable transportation after a reasonable number of repair attempts, you can legally pursue a refund or replacement from the manufacturer if it's still under warranty.

How do you know if your vehicle is a lemon? 

While federal law doesn't explicitly define what constitutes a lemon and state-to-state lemon laws vary, the following qualifications may apply:

  • Defects are substantial and limit actual vehicle operation.
  • Mechanics have made a reasonable number of unsuccessful attempts at repair; generally, that's three or four repair attempts or 30 days of being in the shop.
  • The vehicle is still under some type of warranty.

What can you do if you buy a lemon? 

Send a certified letter of complaint to the manufacturer detailing the problems you've experienced. Include all work orders and invoices to show adequate opportunity has been provided for repair. Request a refund or replacement. This may result in arbitration or hearings, so the help of an attorney may be required.

If you suspect your vehicle to be a lemon, contact the manufacturer as soon as possible to increase your chances of restitution.

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