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What Is the Lemon Law for Cars?

Buying and driving a new car should be an exciting occasion. However, what if your new or used vehicle has a major defect that cannot be fixed despite several trips to the repair shop? You may have a “lemon” on your hands and could have legal recourse.  

The lemon law for cars is designed to protect consumers. A lemon is a car with defects that cannot be repaired after several repair attempts or within a reasonable timeframe.

Dealing with a lemon can be frustrating, time-consuming, and costly. However, if you bought a car, SUV, or truck with a warranty, you do not have to put up with this. 

Individuals who purchased a defective vehicle could sue a manufacturer and potentially recover a settlement, replacement vehicle, or refund. Consider consulting with one of our experienced lemon law attorneys regarding your legal options. Contact us now for a free consultation to learn about your rights.

The Federal Lemon Law for Cars 

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act from 1975, also known as the federal lemon law, governs warranties on most consumer products, including vehicles. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Magnuson-Moss Act does not:

  • Require any business to give a warranty
  • Govern oral warranties
  • Does not apply to warranties on services
  • Does not govern warranties on products sold for resale or commercial use

It is important to note that used cars are generally not required to have a warranty. 

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and Car Warranties 

According to the federal lemon law, a car warranty should include information regarding:

  • Who and what is covered by the manufacturer/dealer warranty
  • The responsibilities of the warrantor
  • The responsibilities of the consumer
  • Where and how repairs and servicing can be carried out
  • Expiration of warranty
  • How to handle disputes with the warrantor

What the Lemon Law for Cars Does Not Cover

The lemon law generally does not apply when damage to the car occurred due to modification, neglect, abuse, or an accident. 

The Lemon Law for New Cars

Not every new car that has a defect is automatically a lemon. Although state laws can differ, for a vehicle to be classified as a lemon, it generally should: 

  1. Have a substantial defect covered by the vehicle warranty 
  2. The defect should have appeared within a specific timeframe or mileage after the purchase 
  3. The defect could not be repaired after several attempts 

What Counts as a Substantial Defect?

A "substantial defect" can be a significant issue impacting a vehicle’s safety, use, or value, such as faulty brakes. Generally, the defect should be substantial. Minor problems such as cosmetic imperfections or a defective door handle would not constitute a major defect. However, occasionally, the line between what is a major or a minor defect can be blurred. Therefore, it can be important to speak to an attorney to find out whether your defective vehicle is a lemon.

When Should the Defect Have Appeared By?

The timeframe and mileage in which a defective new car can be considered a lemon differs from state to state and can vary between around one to two years and 12,000-24,000 miles. 

What Counts as a Reasonable Number of Repair Attempts?

Generally, vehicle owners have to allow manufacturers or dealers to repair a substantial defect before your car is considered a lemon. A car may be considered a lemon if:

  • A serious safety issue such as defective steering or brakes remains defective after one repair attempt. 
  • A significant defect that is not a safety issue remains in disrepair after several repair attempts (generally three to four attempts depending on state law).
  • The vehicle spends 30 days or more in one year in repair shops due to the repair of significant warranty defects.

Lemon Law Statistics

According to AutoGuide, lemon law stats show that some of the most well-known car makers, such as Cadillac, Porsche, Jeep, and Volkswagen, produce the most reported lemons. On the other end of the spectrum, the car manufacturers with the fewest reported lemon vehicles include Toyota, Honda, Mercedes, Buick, and BMW, who all produce fewer lemons than the industry average. Toyota beats the competition by lengths, with on average only one reported lemon per 11.7 million manufactured vehicles.

Your Legal Options with a Lemon Car

Lemon laws can vary considerably from one state to another. However, all states have consumer protection laws that cover cars and other consumer products. Moreover, lemon laws do not necessarily only apply to new vehicles. Individuals who bought a used car or leased a vehicle could also have legal recourse in certain circumstances.

Under the federal Magnuson-Moss Act, vehicle owners can potentially sue for breach of warranty and recover court costs as well as attorneys' fees. While Magnuson-Moss Act violations are typically filed in state courts, actions can be brought as class-action lawsuits in a federal court when many consumers are affected by the same defect.

Since the lemon law can be complex and involve federal as well as state laws, consider speaking to a lemon law attorney from our firm. We can walk you through your legal rights and options in your specific case and discuss whether you could recover financial remedies for your damages.

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