Lemon laws, covered by both state and federal statutes, are laws designed to protect consumers when they purchase a vehicle that fails to meet certain quality and performance standards.
This page will provide you with an overview of the state lemon laws for new and used vehicles.
For official information or legal advice, please contact your attorney or your state’s consumer protection agency.
What is the lemon law?
Each state has a slightly different lemon law, but each one has basically the same principles:
- When a vehicle has significant defects that cannot be repaired in a reasonable amount of time, the manufacturer is required to either repurchase the car or replace it with a new one.
Lemon laws are meant to exceed the coverage offered by new vehicle manufacturer warranties.
State lemon-buyback laws apply when you purchase vehicles from car dealerships that are under the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty.
Federal lemon laws and protections include:
- The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which protects consumers from unfair warranty provisions and requirements.
- Federal Emissions Warranties, which protect consumers from the cost of repairs for certain problems related to the vehicle’s emissions control systems.
Key Aspects to Know About Lemon Laws in Each State
While each state has slightly different lemon laws, the same basic principles apply. Here are the key aspects to know about what qualifies as a lemon:
- Defect: This can typically be any problem that affects the safety, quality, usability, or value of the vehicle.
- Repair attempts: The dealer, manufacturer, or manufacturer’s agent will have a reasonable number of attempts to repair the issue. The maximum is generally 3-4 attempts. However, more serious defects may qualify after just 1 unsuccessful repair. Alternatively, vehicles may also qualify if they have been in the shop for a total number of days (generally 30 total days).
- Timeframe: Lemon law qualification expires after a certain period of time. This is generally the shorter of 1 to 2 years, 12,000 to 24,000 miles from the purchase date, or the warranty period.
What types of problems are covered by the lemon law?
While lemon laws vary by state, they tend to cover a wide range of problems you may be experiencing with your vehicle.
Each state’s law has criteria that take into account the nature of the issue with the vehicle and the nature of the repairs or repair attempts.
In general, the problem simply has to be a defect or malfunction that restricts the vehicle’s safety, use, or value.
It is also something that is ongoing and cannot be remedied after a reasonable number of attempts over a reasonable period of time.
This could include problems with:
- The engine or transmission.
- Windows or air conditioning.
- Electrical problems.
- Doors, trunks, or hood.
Lemon Laws for Used Cars
When you purchase a used vehicle, there is often a higher risk for problems with the car. That’s one of the reasons why it’s always smart to order a vehicle history report when shopping for used cars.
While all 50 states and D.C. have lemon laws for new cars, not every state has protections for used vehicles.
States that do have specific lemon laws for used cars include:
- New Jersey.
- New Mexico.
- New York.
Used car lemon law coverage generally only applies in the following circumstances (which vary by state):
- Very shortly after the sale takes place.
- If the used vehicle is still under manufacturer warranty.
- If the used vehicle is under a certain mileage or age.
- If the vehicle fails an inspection soon after the purchase.
- If it is still within 1 year of the original purchase.
When buying a used car, always be sure to do some research to make sure you’re not getting stuck with something that’s going to give you issues. Don’t count on a state’s used car lemon law protections to totally cover you.
How Does the Lemon Law Work
The specific criteria for lemon laws vary by state, but each one follows a similar process.
First, you’ll need to experience an issue with your car that impairs its use, safety, or value. This could be anything from engine problems to windows that won’t roll down.
Next, you’ll need to take your car in to be repaired.
If the dealer/manufacturer is unable to repair the problem after a certain number of attempts over a certain period of time, the lemon law may kick in assuming that the vehicle is still within the timeframe layed out in your state’s lemon law requirements.
How to File a Claim
If your vehicle qualifies as a lemon under the state’s law, you’ll need to contact the manufacturer about the issue.
Depending on the state, you’ll generally need to either:
- Send notice to the vehicle manufacturer.
- Use a state-certified arbitration process.
- Use a manufacturer’s arbitration process.
When you do file a claim, you should be prepared with documentation to support your car being a lemon. This may include:
- Original purchase agreements.
- Marketing claims for the vehicle.
- Service records.
- Attempts at repair.
If your vehicle meets the state’s lemon law requirements, you’ll be entitled to a full refund or a replacement car from the manufacturer.
For specific details regarding your own situation, please contact your state’s consumer’s affairs office or legal counsel.
Lemon Laws by State
Find your state below to see what vehicles qualify for refund or replacement under the lemon law.