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What is the Lemon Law?

3 min read

It’s bad enough to have to pay through the nose for auto repair. But when you get stuck having to make the same fix time and time again, it’s downright maddening, not to mention financially depleting. The good news is that in some cases, you may be covered by what’s known as a “lemon law.” Here’s what it means if your car is a lemon:

The Lemon law mostly apply to newer cars, but in some cases can apply to used cars, too. They require that a car manufacturer either replace or provide equal cash value for a vehicle that’s deemed a lemon, just as long as they’ve had ample opportunity to fix the problem. This type of work shouldn’t cost you a penny, so it’s important to know what your manufacturer’s warranty covers.

Lemon laws vary from state to state, so depending on where you live your issue may or may not be covered. Fortunately, there’s also a federal law in place that offers further protection against defective cars, so even if your state doesn’t cover a certain issue, you’ve still got recourse. Here’s how to find out if your car qualifies under the lemon law.

Defining What a Lemon Is
Step one is to find out exactly what the definition of a “lemon” is in your state. If you want a great resource for that, just hop online and visit The Center for Auto Safety. There, you’ll find an easy to navigate map of all 50 states that will give you the low-down on everything that’s covered (and everything that’s not covered) by your state’s lemon law. Just as an FYI, the actual name of the state law will probably be something other than “Lemon Law 101” so read all of the information thoroughly.

What Qualifies as a Lemon?
Just because you don’t like your car or have issues that are a result of natural wear and tear doesn’t mean that you have a lemon. Here are some of the issues that are most often associated with lemons.

  • Faulty seat belts or other safety related issues.
  • Mechanical and part related problems.
  • Inoperative locking mechanisms.
  • Failing power window motors or levers.
  • Defective designs that compromise your safety or your car’s ability to perform like it should.

What to Do if You Have a Lemon
If you think you have a lemon, before you can take action to get reimbursement or a replacement, you’ve got to line up your ducks. This means having all receipts and records of previously attempted fixes. Organization is key. If your car is out of commission for any length of time during the repair attempts, track this too. This information will come in handy further down the line.

Follow your state’s required procedures to the letter. You’ll probably be required to send your complaint to the car manufacturer directly. As a rule, always keep a copy of every letter that you send and never attach your original invoices – always make copies.

Although this isn’t likely to happen if you have a legitimate case and are able to provide all documentation, there’s always the risk that you could receive some pushback from the car manufacturer. If this happens, don’t take it lying down. Get on the phone with the state attorney general’s office and see what help they can offer you to resolve the issue. If worse comes to worse, you may want to talk to a lawyer – although it’s highly likely that a simple letter of intent from a lawyer will be enough to shake a stubborn manufacturer into action.

Before you go hurling accusations at manufacturers and getting yourself worked up, talk to a professional auto repair shop in your area about your vehicle’s problem. With their level of expertise, they should be able to give you a good idea if your car’s issues fall under lemon law protection.