Woman standing in front of broken down car

Lemon Laws

“Lemon Law” is the colloquial term for automobile warranty law.

Every state has laws which protect new-car buyers, often known as “The New Motor Vehicle Warranties Act.” The federal law equivalent is the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. It was enacted in 1975 and protects citizens of every U.S. state. Some states do not extend Lemon-law protection to anything but cars and passenger vehicles. Other states only cover RVs or larger trucks. A few states cover used cars, but that is less common across the country.  If someone you know has gotten in trouble with the law, the first place to start is with a reputable bail bondsman.

Pursuant to these Lemon Laws, manufacturers can be and often are ordered to refund the entire purchase price of a new vehicle or even replace a vehicle that is proven critically flawed. However, such dramatic “buy-back” results are rare, and eligibility requirements can and do vary. Typically, a Lemon purchaser must first exhaust all other possible remedies prior to initiating the Lemon-Law buyback proceedings. To put it another way, there is a high probability of being a “lemon” if the car has been repaired more than three to four times for the same defect within the warranty period and the defect has not been fixed. Additionally, a car generally must be inoperable for at least the first month during its first year or 12,000 miles.

What Triggers Lemon Laws?

As a general rule, in order to trigger the Lemon Laws, the vehicle must have a serious defect or abnormal condition; the problem also must substantially impair the usage and/or value of the vehicle thereby likely contributing to a serious safety hazard; moreover, while under warranty, the problem must be reported to the dealer or manufacturer; a reasonable number of attempts must be made to fix the problem; and written notice must be given to the manufacturer, who has the opportunity to address the complaint.

Be mindful of certain “as-in” laws. Although laws vary greatly by state, one general requirement is that a product must be purchased with a warranty in order to be eligible for protection under lemon laws. If your vehicle is purchased “as-is,” this is usually an incontrovertible agreement between the buyer and the seller that the buyer must assume the risk of any defects in the product. If that is the case, then the buyer loses the right to seek recovery for those losses from the seller or manufacturer.

What to Do?

If you have purchased a used car that you feel is a Lemon, please first seek assistance from the dealership where you bought the vehicle. There are several options. Most states require some sort of minimal time warranty on most used vehicles. Nevertheless, if you have major problems immediately following the purchase of a vehicle, then your used car dealer will be your best bet for obtaining assistance.

In certain circumstances, the dealership may be required to refund your purchase. But this is never a guarantee. To be sure, there are loopholes in many state’s statutes that permit used-car dealers an opportunity to escape from a refund. One common loophole is the fact that most states allow a used car dealer to escape a refund if the defect isn’t considered to be a major impairment to the operation of the vehicle. In most circumstances, the dealership will simply repair the vehicle.

The time period in which one must make a claim for a Lemon product also vary greatly. You must act quickly. Some jurisdictions and products have terms as short as several days. Others may last for months. Nevertheless, products deteriorate with use and a number of other variables affect the performance of a consumer good over time, so most of these time periods are relatively brief (usually no longer than two to three months).

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