What if the Car I Purchased is a Lemon?

by : Dean Larson

So...what exactly is an automobile "lemon law"? These are laws designed to protect consumers and allow them to get a refund or a similar replacement automobile when their car initially turns out to be much less than expected or advertised. The general definition goes something like this: A lemon is a car that doesn't operate reasonably within the period in which it has been owned.

Question that come up often include "do lemon laws cover used cars" and "do lemon laws cover leased cars"? The fact is, most lemon law detais depend on the state you live in. Your best order of business when it comes to lemon laws is to contact your state attorney general's office and ask a lot of questions. Here are a few you might begin with...

  • What's the maximum miles and/or number of years allowed from date of purchase?

  • Is there a maximum price allowed per vehicle?

  • Are motorcycles and off-road vehicles covered?

  • Are only certain parts of the vehicle covered?

  • Are private sales covered?

  • Are used cars covered?

  • Are leased cars covered?

  • Are cars purchased at auctions covered?

  • Can a dealership limit your lemon law coverage?

  • How is the lemon law warranty transferred?
So, what steps should I take if in fact I qualify under my state's lemon laws? Some general steps might include first attempting to resolve the situation with the dealer or party who sold you the vehicle. Next you might want to contact the manufacturer or its representative directly. Make sure if you contact them by mail you send it certified so you'll have records of all your dealings. Keep detailed paperwork of everything you do. The next step would probably be to pursue arbitration. Typically you can purse arbitration if you meet the following requirements:
  • The specific problem is covered by the manufacturer's warranty

  • You have notified the manufacturer directly about the problem

  • The problem substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of your vehicle

  • The problem has not been satisfactorily repaired

  • The manufacturer has an arbitration program
Pursuing lemon laws can be arduous if not handled properly. That's why it's important to ask as many questions as you can. The laws after all are designed to protect the consumer. Quite often, your state attorney general will have a government website detailing what is and isn't covered under their lemon law and what action you can take as a consumer. It's very important that you act fast though if you feel like you're in the middle of a potential case because all lemon laws come with their own time and mileage limitations.