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When a Car Is a Lemon - Laws By State

Updated on October 22, 2015

If you are wondering whether your car is a lemon, you should inform yourself about lemon laws by state; not all used or new cars can qualify as lemons in all the states. Generally speaking, you can classify you car as a cherry or a lemon – if you have a cherry, lucky you, but if you have a lemon, you should know your lemon law rights and use them.


Lemon in American Slang


The word lemon was used in the 1800s to describe sour or unfriendly people.

In 1909, the word lemon was a synonym for a worthless thing .

Today it refers to defective or broken things or things which break constantly such as computers, cars, boats, motorcycles, and wheelchairs.

Cherries vs. Lemons

The perfect example of quality uncertainty is the market for used cars – there are good used cars (cherries) and defective cars (lemons). As a buyer of a used car, you never know whether you’re buying a cherry or a lemon. In a scenario in which a seller knows a lot more about a product than the buyer (and hides the whole truth), the market becomes a "market for lemons" described by the American economist George Akerlof who won the Nobel prize in Economics (2001).

Five years after he published the paper on the market of lemons, the U.S. government enacted the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, widely known as the federal lemon law, in order to protect your consumer rights if your car is a lemon (or another product under the lemon law).

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act


Lemon laws are based on the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act providing protection for the buyer of any product that costs more than $25 but does not perform as it should (including an express written warranty).

This law particularly affects the rights of car buyers since the written warranty gives the buyer the choice to refund or replace the vehicle. In most cases, lemon manufacturers undergo the "three strikes and you're out" principle, which means they are given three attempts to fix the defect.

When a Car Is a Lemon

Your car is a lemon if it is has a defect, such as:

  • a problem with the car engine and/or transmission,
  • brakes and/or steering (in this case, the manufacturer is granted one attempt to repair a serious safety defect and two attempts to repair a safety defect that is not considered serious)
  • water and/or oil leaks,
  • paint defects,
  • bad smell emersions,
  • unusual vibrations or rattles,
  • electrical problems,
  • any other problem that you attempted to have repaired multiple times.


When  a Car Is a Lemon
When a Car Is a Lemon | Source

How Does The Lemon Law Protect You?


The federal lemon law provides a remedy for American citizens who purchase cars that fail to meet standards of performance and quality. In most states, the lemon law covers used or leased cars. If your car is a lemon, check the rights of consumers in your state because they may exceed the warranties in the purchase contracts.

Unfortunately, some states have lemon laws which do not cover used cars (only in rare cases), for example, the state of Michigan. Motorcycles are covered in some states and excluded in others. In some states, they cover only cars and trucks, but in some, they cover vehicles such as motor homes, too. Some states’ lemon laws cover only brand new purchased cars, and some cover both new and used cars.


Generally speaking, lemon laws require manufacturers to buy back or replace defective cars if they have a defect that cannot be repaired within a defined number of repair attempts and in certain period of time. Most states require that you notify the manufacturer in written form about the problems you are experiencing with your vehicle and about your plan to proceed under lemon law.

One of the basic guidelines of the lemon law shared by all states is that the defects must occur in a warranty rights period set up of 12 – 24 months or 12,000 – 24,000 miles. The states that allow attorney's fees count for a better success in warranty disputes, but only about one half allows the consumer to recover the fees.


Lemon Law Coverage In 50 American States


Unfortunately, some states have lemon laws which do not cover used cars (only in rare cases), for example, the state of Michigan. Motorcycles are covered in some states and excluded in others. In some states, they cover only cars and trucks, but in some, they cover vehicles such as motor homes, too. Some states' lemon laws cover only brand new purchased cars, and some cover both new and used cars.

Before contacting a lemon law attorney, take a look at this table to find general information on lemon laws by states:


Lemon Laws By State

All states
Coverage
Coverage Period
Repair Attempts
Alabama
Self-propelled vehicels intended for use on publis highways. Motor homes and vehicles with 10,000+ GVW excludedS
12 months*
3
Alaska
Self-propelled vehicle (by motor) with 4+ wheels. Off-road vehicles such as tractors or farm vehicles excluded.
12 months
3
Arizona
Self-propelled vehicles intended for public highways. The chassis portion of a motor home is covered.
24 months
4
Arkansas
Self-propelled vehicles intended for public highways (including motor homes). Mopeds, motorcycles, the living facilities of a motor home, or vehicles over 10,000 pounds GVW excluded.
24 months
1, 3 or 5 (depends on the type of defect)
* The amount of miles varies from state to state.
All states
Coverage
Coverage Period
Repair Attempts
California
New motor vehicles intended for personal use. The chassis portion of motor homes included.
18 months*
2 or 4 (depending on the type of defect)
Colorado
Self-propelled vehicles intended for public transportation, including pickup trucks and vans. Motorcycles and motor homes excluded.
12 months
4
Connecticut
Motor vehicles intended for private and commercial transportation.
24 months
4
* 18 months or 18,000 miles coverage period.
All States
Coverage
Coverage Period
Repair Attempts
Delaware
Motor vehicels for passengers. The chassis motor home included. Other motor homes and motorcycles excluded.
1 year
4
District of Columbia
Motor vehicels for passengers. Buses, motor homes, motorcycles and recreation vehicles excluded.
2 years
4
Florida
New and leased vehicles for personal use. The law does NOT cover: vehicles intended to run on tracks, off-road vehicles, 10,000+ GVW trucks or motor homes, recreational vehicles, motorcycles and mopeds.
2 years
3
Georgia
Self-propelled vehicles for personal purposes. Does not include: motor homes other than the chassis motor home, motorcycles and trucks with 10,000+ GVW.
1 year
1 or 3 (depending on the type of defect)
Hawaii
Self-propelled vehicles for personal purposes. Does not include: motorcycles, motor scooters and mopeds, vehicles with 10,000+ GVW.
2 years
1 or 3 (depending on the type of defect)
All States
Coverage
Coverage period
Repair Attempts
Idaho
New motor vehicles for personal use. Motorcycles, farm tractors and trailers, and vehicles with 12,000+ GVW.
2 years
4
Illinois
New motor vehicles including trucks and vans under 8,000 GVW, recreational vehicles. Trailers and motorcycles excluded.
1 year
4
Indiana
Self-propelled vehicles with GVW under 10,000 pounds, intended for use on public highways. Does not include vehicles intended for off-road use, such as: motor homes, farm vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds, etc.
18 months
4
Iowa
Self-propelled vehicles for personal use. Does not include: mopeds, motorcycles, motor homes, or vehicles with 10,000+ GVW.
2 years
1 or 3 (depending on the type of defect)
All States
Coverage
Coverage Period
Repair Attempts
Kansas
New motor vehicles (leased, too) under 12,000 pounds. Customized parts of motor vehicles not included.
1 year
4 or 10 (depending on the type of defect)
Kentucky
All vehicles except for: conversion vans, motor homes, mopeds, motorcycles, farm vehicles and vehicles with more than 2 axles.
1 year
4
Louisiana
Vehicles under 10,000 pounds. Not included: motor homes, motorcycles, and vehicles used for commercial purposes.
1 year
4
All States
Coverage
Coverage Period
Repair Attempts
Maine
All vehicles except vehicles over 8,000 pounds for commercial use.
24 moths
3
Maryland
All passenger vehicles under a ton.
15 months, 12 months for leased vehicles
1 or 4 (depending on the type of defect)
Massachusetts
All vehicles except off-road vehicles such as motor homes, motorcycles, and vehicles for commercial purposes.
12 moths
3
Michigan
New vehicles. Vehicles for commercial use excluded.
12 moths
4
Minnesota
New vehicles (personal use at least 40% of time).
24 moths
1 or 4 (depending on the type of defect)
Mississipi
Vehicles for personal use. Not included: off-road vehicles, motor home (other than motor home chassis), motorcycles, mopeds.
12 moths
3
Missouri
New vehicles. Not included: vehicles for commercial purposes, mopeds, motorcycles, recreational vehicles and off.road vehicles.
12 months
4
Montana
All vehicles including nonresidential motor homes. Not included: motorcycles and vehicles with 10,000+ GVW.
24 moths
4
All States
Coverage
Coverage Period
Repair Attempts
Nebraska
New motor vehicles for personal use. Motor homes excluded.
12 months
4
Nevada
New motor vehicles for personal use. Motor homes and off-road vehicles excluded.
12 months
4
New Hampshire
All 4-wheel vehicles under 9,000 pounds. Mopeds, motorcycles and recreational vehicles included.
Warranty period + 12 months
3
New Jersey
Vehicles for personal use including motorcycles and nonresidential motor homes.
24 months
3
New Mexico
Motor vehicles under 10,000 pounds.
12 months
4
New York
Motor vehicles for personal use. Not included: motorcycles, off-road vehicles and certain types of motor homes.
24 months
4
North Carolina
New motor vehicles under 10,000 pounds (motorcycles included). Motor homes excluded.
24 months
4 (depending on the period out of service)
North Dakota
Motor vehicles for personal use under 10,000 pounds.
12 months
3
All States
Coverage
Coverage Period
Repair Attempts
Ohio
Motor vehicles under a ton, including light trucks, motor home chassis and motorcycles.
12 months
1, 3 or 8 (depending on the type of defect)
Oklahoma
All motor vehicles under 10,000 pounds except motor homes.
12 months
4
Oregon
New motor vehicles for personal use.
12 months
4
Pennsylvania
All vehicles for personal use except motor homes, motorcycles and off-road vehicles.
12 months
3
Rhode Island
Vehicles under 10,000 pounds.
12 months
4
All States
Coverage
Coverage Period
Repair Attempts
South Carolina
Passenger vehicles including small trucks.
12 months
3
South Dakota
self-propelled vehicles intended for public highways. Vehicles and motor homes over 10,000 pounds.
12 months
4
Tennessee
All vehicles except motorcycles, mopeds and other motorbikes, motor homes, off-road vehicles, recreational vehicles and vehicles over 10,000 pounds.
12 months
4
Texas
All new vehicles.
12 months
2 or 4 (depending on the type of defect)
Utah
Vehicles with less than 12,000 GVW.
12 months
4
All States
Coverage
Coverage Period
Repair Attempts
Vermont
Passenger motor vehicles and trucks under 10,000 pounds. Living portions of recreational vehicles, snowmobiles, motorcycles and mopeds excluded.
Warranty period
3
Virginia
Motor vehicles used for personal purposes (in substantial part).
18 months
1 or 3 (depending on the type of defect)
Washington
New self-propelled vehicles, including motorcycles. Not included: living portions of motor homes or trucks with or over 19,000 pounds.
24 months
2 or 4 (depending on the type of defect)
West Virginia
Passenger vehicles, including pickup trucks, vans and motor home chassis (non-commercial).
12 months
1 or 3 (depending on the type of defect)
Wisconsin
All vehicles except mopeds, semi-trailers or trailers in combination with a truck or truck tractor.
12 months
4
Wyoming
All vehicles with 10,000 pounds, or less.
12 months
3

Hiring a Lemon Law Attorney


If you think your car is a lemon or breach of warranty case, but you are not sure about the definition of lemon law in your state, it is advisable to contact an experienced lemon law attorney in your state to handle the case. Your lemon law attorney should do a free case evaluation for you to determine your rights under your state's laws (no up-front fees for taking the case). In case it turns out you do have a lemon car, you may be entitled to a refund or replacement vehicle. If the lemon law in your state doesn't cover your defective vehicle, you can benefit from the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act because it is a Federal Law applicable in all US states.


Lemon Law - Know Your Rights

Case Evaluation Documents – If Your Car Is a Lemon


Necessary documents for a precise evaluation of your case must include the vehicle's defects and the efforts of getting those defects repaired (repair invoices). Because the application of the lemon laws varies by state, have your attorney advise you in the matter to make sure you know whether your state takes into consideration:


  • 4 repair attempts or more,
  • 2 repairs of defects posing a serious safety threat,
  • the defects having caused the vehicle to be out of service for 30 days or more (due to repair during the first year of ownership).

Repair Invoices

You must keep all your repair invoices and make sure that they include the exact date when you brought the car for repair and when you picked up the car. Your complaints should be written in your own words, and if you financed the purchase of the car yourself, get the documentation from the original vehicle purchase transaction and the payment book.


Did you found this article useful for expanding your knowledge about lemon law?

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Make Sure You Get a Cherry Instead of a Lemon Car


Most lemon laws require the manufacturer's breach of warranty - form of guarantee making the manufacturer legally responsible for repairs to the consumer's vehicle or good. Therefore, these obligations on the manufacturer, the seller or both, are imposed by lemon laws as a matter of public policy.


The main types of warranties are:

  • express warranty (written)
  • implied warranty (unwritten).

If a vehicle is not under warranty but the seller failed to disclose critical information such as previous damage to the buyer, then the situation is also covered by lemon law, but proving that your car is a lemon may be a lot more difficult.


Comments On Lemon Laws By State and Lemon Cars

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    • vox vocis profile image
      Author

      Jasmine 5 years ago

      Thank you, thelyricwriter! I really did a lot of research to put this hub together, but the idea was actually to experiment with a high-paying keyword (bad idea, doesn't bring any good lol) I must admit that there are a lot of great articles about lemon laws on the web. It's hard to write anything better. Because of your feedback, at least I know that when people land on this page, they'll find something useful and accurate to read.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 5 years ago from West Virginia

      Jasmine, this is a class "A" article. Very useful information. Great job on everything and I commend you for the hard work, it was well worth it cause this is everything you need to know about lemons and laws. Well done. Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting. Hope all is well, take care.

    • vox vocis profile image
      Author

      Jasmine 6 years ago

      @Alex Banks: A manufacturer's warranty can be an express warranty (typically a written warranty) and implied warranty (unlike express warranty, it is not written). The law imposes these obligations on the manufacturer, the seller or both as a matter of public policy. These vary from state to state.

      Note (I'm qouting myself from the article above):

      "If a vehicle is not under warranty but the seller failed to disclose critical information such as previous damage to the buyer, then the situation is also covered by lemon law."

      Contact the seller and demand to have your car repaired immediately or return the car and demand to have your money back. If the seller "plays smart," inform him that you'll take legal actions against him under the federal lemon law.

      You don't have to necessarily have a lemon law attorney to take actions, but I recommend to consult somebody who knows a little more about the law in your state (remember that these laws vary from state to state).

      If you find the time, keep me posted on how things went for you. Good luck!

    • profile image

      Alex Banks 6 years ago

      how long have i got to come back an automobile along with Tx Lemon Laws and regulations?

      I purchased a second hand car 2 days back and I comprehend it is As Is/No Warranty yet arent presently there nonetheless certain rights to used car purchases to safeguard purchasers? Basically discovered a major mechanised difficulty and also the car isn't drivable, exactly what option do I have?

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Good information to know when you need it, thank you.

    • profile image

      Linda Myshrall 7 years ago

      Very useful information that I hope I never have to use!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 7 years ago from TEXAS

      Good to know not only THAT there is recourse but how to employ it. Thanks! Rated useful,for sure.

    • TnFlash profile image

      TnFlash 7 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      Great Hub! This is important information for all consumers. Good Work!

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 7 years ago from Canada

      wow great info keep them coming.

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 7 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      wow a great hub, I had no idea this law was out there. Wonderful information.

    • CariDoughy profile image

      CariDoughy 7 years ago

      I love the lemon law... I never thought I would have to rely on such a law, but sure enough... I was sold a lemon SUV

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

      Never heard of the lemon law before - but maybe that is because I am from the UK!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      I had not heard of the "lemon law" before. Thanks for the enlightenment! Unfortunately it does not apply to my country.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

      nice information about the "lemon law", and the word lemon, but many people try to cheat on behalf of other people, too bad! lemon cars, Thanks, Maita

    • Sage Williams profile image

      Sage Williams 7 years ago

      Very informative and interesting hub. I learned quite a bit. Thanks so much for an interesting read.

      Sage