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:
- Have a substantial defect covered by the vehicle warranty
- The defect should have appeared within a specific timeframe or mileage after the purchase
- 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.
Lemon Law Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Know Whether I Have a Lemon Law Claim?
It can be tricky for vehicle owners to know exactly when they have a lemon law claim as state and federal laws come into play. However, if your car, truck, or SUV, was already three or four times in the repair shop for the same significant defect, you could have a case. You could also have a claim if your vehicle spent a considerable amount of time in a repair shop, 30 days or more in a year, and the defect is still not fixed. It is important to note that even if your vehicle does not qualify as a lemon under your state’s laws, you could still have legal recourse under the federal Magnuson-Moss Act.
If you are not sure whether the lemon law for cars applies in your particular circumstances, the best way to find out whether you have a claim is to contact an attorney who is experienced in this field.
What Is a Lemon Law Buyback?
The lemon law for cars generally requires the manufacturer to buy back a significantly defective car and furnish the buyer with a replacement car or refund. Repurchase and refund can potentially cover:
- Purchasing costs
- Costs of service contracts
- Leasing costs such as down-payments and monthly payments
- The remaining loan balance on a purchased vehicle
- The remaining lease obligations on a leased car
- Taxes and financing charges tied to the purchase or lease
- A portion of registration expenses
You could also potentially recover any out-of-pocket costs you incurred due to owning or leasing a lemon car, including transportation costs, towing costs, and rental car expenses.
Do I Have a Lemon Law Case if My Car is Out of Warranty?
Lemon law can be complex and may apply to vehicles that are out-of-warranty in some circumstances. You may have a case even if your car is out of warranty or you purchased a used vehicle without a warranty, particularly if:
The first repair attempts to fix the defect in question took place during the original warranty period of the vehicle.
If your used or out-of-warranty vehicle has a severe recurring defect that keeps coming back even after the warranty expired, you could have a lemon law case. However, you will have to present documentation and service records showing that the issue with your car has recurred several times. A manufacturer may then repair your vehicle again or provide a refund or replacement for your car.
What About Older Cars Specifically?
In some states, only newer cars with a certain mileage are covered under the lemon laws. However, the federal Magnuson-Moss Act does not specify a mileage limit. Moreover, if you bought a used car with a written warranty, the vehicle potentially qualifies under the lemon law. Some used cars may also still be covered under the manufacturer or dealer warranty.
Owners of used or older cars may be able to seek relief under the federal lemon laws. However, timing can be of the essence with older cars. If you believe your car is a lemon, contact a lemon law attorney for more information and legal advice as soon as you can.
What Could I Recover in a Lemon Law Claim?
Recovery in a lemon law case is generally determined by your state’s specific lemon laws, the damages you incurred with a defective vehicle, and other facts of your case. You could receive, among other compensation:
- A refund
- A replacement vehicle
- Attorney’s fees and court costs
- Compensation for repair costs
- Out-of-pocket expenses
If you receive a refund or replacement vehicle, you will have to make a slight adjustment or allowance for any use you got out of the car.
Do I Need a Lemon Law Attorney?
It is generally possible to handle a lemon law claim on your own. However, consider seeking free legal advice before deciding on your next best steps. Lemon law attorneys know the regulations and laws that apply in your state and federally, and can advise you accordingly. A lemon law lawyer knows your legal rights and options as they handle cases such as yours every day.
Going it alone against a large corporation such as a car manufacturer can feel daunting and overwhelming. Moreover, manufacturers and dealerships tend to have teams of lawyers at their disposal, ready to fight lemon law claims. Getting a manufacturer or car dealer to replace your vehicle or issue a refund without having a lawyer in your corner can be tricky. They will most likely fight vigorously to minimize or deny your claim.
Morgan & Morgan’s lemon law attorneys can leave no stone unturned to fight for your rights and appropriate compensation. If you had to deal with the headache, hassle, and potential safety hazard of a lemon car, we want to help. One of our experienced attorneys can guide you through the process and fight tirelessly for your rights, whether your claim is settled out of court or at a trial.
How Much Do Lemon Law Attorneys Cost?
If you have a lemon vehicle and are considering filing a claim, you should not have to worry about attorney’s fees. According to federal and state lemon laws, the manufacturer is generally responsible for paying for your lawyer’s costs in a successful case.
Our lemon law attorneys do not charge you a dime in upfront attorney’s fees. We only get paid if we win and recover our fees directly from the manufacturer.
How Do I Choose the Best Lemon Law Attorney?
Finding a good lemon law attorney who will fight for what you deserve can provide relief and give you peace of mind. Some of the steps you can take in finding a great lemon law attorney can include:
- Reading online reviews and client testimonials
- Getting referrals from friends and family
- Scheduling free consultations with lemon law attorneys
- Asking attorneys about their track record of litigating lemon law cases
Most importantly, in a first consultation, your potential legal team or lawyer should listen to your concerns and answer your questions openly and honestly. If you are comfortable discussing your case with a lawyer and feel that you would be well-represented if you hired them, you may have found the best lemon law attorney for you.
How Morgan & Morgan Can Help
Spending more time at the repair shop than actually driving your new or used car can feel exasperating. By the time individuals realize that they could have a lemon law claim, they have often already dealt with the inconvenience of a defective car for weeks or even months. You should not have to suffer any more aggravation and expenses to get the reliable vehicle you paid for. If a manufacturer already had several chances to put this right, we can take over and fight to get your case resolved.
We understand that going up against a global car manufacturer can feel daunting. However, you do not have to do this on your own. The experienced lemon law attorneys at Morgan & Morgan can help regular people stand up against powerful corporations. We do not shy away from taking on large companies and their lawyers with a breach-of-warranty claim.
Get the process started now and contact us for a free case review to discover if you have a lemon law claim.