You've Bought a Lemon
Can Your State's Lemon Law Help You?
a car is not like buying a radio; you cannot return it to the store for a refund
if you do not like it, or if it has a manufacturing defect.
In fact, for many
years, if you purchased an automobile that came from the factory with defects,
you were just stuck. You could try to get the dealer to repair the problem, but
if the problem continued and the dealer could not repair it, you were out of luck.
These laws, spawned by consumers
who had waged tireless battles against major auto companies, allowed owners of
defective automobiles to seek compensation or replacement with the help of their
respective states. These laws swept like wildfire throughout the country, and
now all 50 states have some form of the lemon law.
The specifics of the
lemon laws will vary from state to state, but in general, they define a “lemon”
as a vehicle that:
Has a “nonconformity” that affects the safety, use,
or value of the vehicle, and
The nonconformity has not been successfully
repaired after a “reasonable” number of attempts, and/or
has been out of service for a total of a certain number of days for repair of
The length of the warranty period also varies; coverage
typically runs anywhere from one year or 12,000 miles to two years or 24,000 miles.
As previously stated, the specifics vary from state to state, particularly the
number of repair attempts that constitute “reasonable” and the number of days
that the vehicle must be out of service in order to qualify. In some states, repairs
that affect the brakes or other safety equipment need only one repair attempt
to qualify as “reasonable.”
Restitution is fairly consistent from state
to state; it usually requires the manufacturer to either replace the vehicle with
one of comparable value, or refund the purchase price, along with taxes, registration
and delivery fees. Some states leave the option of replacement or refund to the
manufacturer, but most give the option to the consumer.
What should you
do if you think you have a lemon? You should:
Make sure that you document
everything relating to repairs of the vehicle, including when and where it was
repaired, who signed the work order and what work was done.
contact the manufacturer in writing, alerting them to the nature of the problem.
should consult with your state’s Attorney General’s office to learn how your state’s
law affects you directly.
You may have to go through the lemon law arbitration process;
this involves both you and a representative of the manufacturer explaining your
respective situations to a panel that will then provide a ruling. The arbitration
ruling is usually binding on the manufacturer; they will have no recourse should
the panel rule in your favor. Generally, if you don’t agree with the panel’s ruling,
you still have the option of filing a lawsuit in court.
You may wish
to hire an attorney to represent you; there are plenty of lawyers who specialize
in lemon law cases, and they can probably bring the case to a solution more quickly
than if you handle the case yourself. Be sure to contact your state’s Attorney
General’s office regarding the specifics of your own state’s lemon law. You don’t
want to miss a deadline, or you could be stuck with your lemon for a long time.