Consumer rights and lemon laws
If your car is a lemon, most states require that you either receive a new replacement vehicle or a refund of your money.
Photo Credit: Andrea Gingerich
What is a lemon?
A lemon is a car that is defective. While the exact definitions may vary from state to state, a car is generally considered to be a lemon when its defects are not fixed after multiple attempts, the defects significantly reduce the value of the car, the defects keep the car out of use for a considerable amount of time, or the car is unsafe to operate as a result of the defects.
What is a lemon law?
Lemon laws are designed to protect consumers from defective automobiles and unscrupulous car dealers. While the laws are different in each state, most states agree that if a vehicle has substantial defects that cannot be fixed after a reasonable number of attempts, the owner of the vehicle is entitled to seek damages. A "substantial defect" is a problem that impairs the car's ability to operate safely or decreases its value. All 50 states have enacted lemon laws and other regulations pertaining to automobile warranties.
Is my car protected under the lemon law?
This depends on the age of the car and the extent of the defects that it may have. While all new cars are protected state lemon laws, many states do not offer this same protection for used cars. Therefore it is very important to check your state lemon laws to make sure if used cars are protected before you purchase a pre-owned vehicle. You also need to understand the difference between a nuisance and a defect. Your car will be protected under your states lemon law ONLY if the nature of the mechanical problems is so severe that they adversely affect the value, use or safety of the vehicle.
How do I find out if the car I want to buy is a lemon?
You can save yourself a great deal of time and money if you do some research on the car you want to buy beforehand. Most laws require that cars deemed as lemons indicate this information on the title. Make sure that the title is clean and does not indicate any lemon classifications. You can also check with the manufacturer and consumer publications to see if any recall notices were issued on a particular car make or model. In additions, make sure that you use a record check service such as Carfax or Autocheck. These services allow you to run a check on a car to search for any lemon indicators.
What are my rights if my car is a lemon?
If your car is determined to be a lemon, state law usually requires that you receive either a replacement vehicle or a refund. In order to receive any compensation, you will need to provide documentation of every defect and repair attempt involving your vehicle. When you file your complaint, you will need to provide all purchase, registration and repair information in order to prove your case. There are also many attorneys who are familiar with the lemon laws in your state and can help you to recover damages.