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What You Need To Know About Lemon Law



A lemon car is usually a vehicle that has so many manufacturing defects that it affects its safety, value, or utility. The goal of lemon laws is to make consumer product warranties more easily understood and enforceable. In the United States, Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act enacted in 1975 ensures manufacturers that offer product warranties, fully comply and rectify when problems occur. Lemon laws are not just for new vehicles but they can also be for used vehicles that still have warranty. Vehicle warranty is transferable from owner to owner in the United States, thus it is possible to get a situation rectified depending on which state one resides. 

Different States Have Different Lemon Laws

It is important to note that all 50 American States have some form of new car lemon laws. However, only 6 states have a used car lemon law. These 6 states are Hawaii, Massecussets, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. Based on age and odometer readings each of these states have different vehicle classifications for coverage, with the corresponding length of the limited warranty, which also varies. 

  • Rhode Island has a 60 day/3000 mile warranty for vehicles with less than 36,000 miles.
  • New York has a 90 day/4000 mile warranty for vehicles with less than 36,000 miles.
  • New Jersey has 90 day/3000 mile warranty for vehicles with less than 36,000 miles
  • Minnesota has a 60 day/2500 mile warranty for vehicles with less than 24,000 miles
  • Massachusetts has a 90 day/3750 mile warranty for vehicles with less than 40,000 miles. 
  • Hawaii has a 90 day/5000 mile warranty for vehicles with less than 25,000 miles. 

There are 7 other states that have some type of minimum standard for used vehicles. Arizona and New Mexico prohibit a disclaiming the implied warranty for the first 15 days or 500 miles following a sale. Connecticut and Nevada require some form of warranty with different limitations. Similarly, in main a vehicle must pass a safety inspection prior to  being sold. In Pennsylvania and Illinois, dealers have limitations on disclaiming the limited warranty. Other jurisdictions restrict or prohibit disclaimers for all vehicles and consumer goods. These include California, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oregon, West Virginia and District of Columbia. Therefore, to summarize 6 states have a used car lemon law, 7 states have other statutory standards for used cars, and 9 other states that either restrict or prohibit disclaimers for used cars amongst all other transactions. 

Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act states that manufacturers are entitled to a reasonable number of attempts to repair defective consumer goods. If manufacturers or their agents are unsuccessful, they must replace the goods or refund the purchase price. This is a basic remedy that almost all lemon laws provide. Covered vehicles must have a manufacturer’s warranty for either new or certified pre-owned vehicles that are in effect at the attempt of the first repair. Any vehicle with a gross weight under 10,000 pounds is covered. This also includes motor homes, motorcycles, boats and recreational vehicles. All these vehicles have to be purchased or leased through a transaction in the states for the laws to apply, with the only exception being to vehicles belonging to active military members living in that particular state. Also, it usually does not matter what the vehicle is used for, whether it is business or personal. 

Covered defects must be covered by the factory warranties and substantially impair the vehicle’s use, value or safety. In order to support a lemon law claim, the defects must remain unresolved after a reasonable number of repair attempts by the authorized dealer. According to Neale & Fihma LLP, a manufacturer like Ford is a lemon when a vehicle that requires constant attention from a mechanic dealing with the same defect. As an example, this could be a cracked axle, defective drive train, electrical problems, faulty brakes and many other common problems specific to Fords. Courts have ruled in the past that one attempt is insufficient. However, a ‘repair attempt’ could be considered each time a customer brings their vehicle to the dealership and it does not matter whether the dealership actually tries to repair it. 


Dealing With A Dealership Or Manufacturer

One must fully document and describe the defect before a repair order is signed. If the same issue persists and an individual visits several times, they should make sure that it is accurately described that this is not the first time it has happened. An individual has to carefully check the work completed to rectify the problems they describe. If an individual feels that the problem was not on the order or not repaired, It is advisable to ask the dealership to write why. If a certain mechanic is not able to rectify the problem, an individual, should demand an escalation to the service manager. Always, include the name and job title of the person aiding you when documenting the problem. Finally, it is advisable to never leave the dealership without a copy of an accurate and signed repair order. 


Available Remedies For A Lemon Vehicle

The available remedies if the vehicle defect qualifies for the lemon law include either a repurchase or a replacement by the manufacturer. To repurchase means a manufacturer refunds all the money paid for the vehicle, including finance charges, taxes, shipping fees, factory options, out-of-pocket costs for repairs, towing, and rental cars and this refund is subject to a reduction to account for the customer’s use prior to the defect, if applicable. Replacement means the owner receives a new and similarly equipped vehicle free of defects from the manufacturer. 

In conclusion, consumers need to be educated by the specific lemon laws available in their state. Most states include lemon laws for both new and used vehicles under manufacturer’s warranty. Consumers need to keep proper documentation when a problem occurs over and over again, while offering a chance to the manufacturer to rectify it. If after several attempts the defect is not fixed then they should be entitled to either a full refund or a full replacement of the vehicle with a similar one from the manufacturer.