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What is a Lemon Law?

To protect car buyers from purchasing subpar vehicles, most states have enacted consumer protection statutes known as lemon laws. "What is a lemon law?" you may ask.

Whether a new car lemon law or a used car lemon law, lemon laws give buyers recourse when they purchase an unfixable car.

However, just because you think you're entitled to a new car, it doesn't mean you legally must be provided with one.

Though they vary by state, most new car lemon laws require that a vehicle:

  1. have a "substantial defect" that occurs within a certain time of purchase
  2. maintain that defect after a "reasonable number of repairs"

A substantial defect is usually defined as a problem affecting a serious function of the car that is also covered by the car's warranty. A reasonable number of repair attempts is usually around 4, though some states consider number of days a car is with a mechanic.

For those in states with used car lemon laws, they work differently than those that apply to new cars. Depending on age and mileage, they tend to provide a statutory warranty for used cars that requires dealers to repair and replace if necessary.

Some states also have statutes protecting used car buyers by requiring disclosures and providing for implied warranties. These, however, are more difficult to enforce.

Whether you need to rely on a new car lemon law or a used car lemon law, you're likely to run into problems with your dealer. If this occurs, it's often prudent to hire an attorney to give them a little push.

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