When Is A Vehicle Considered A Lemon?

A vehicle is a lemon if it is seriously defective and could not be repaired in a reasonable number of attempts.

Serious Defect:
A serious defect is any defect or condition or series of defects or conditions which substantially impair the value of the motor vehicle to the consumer. The defect must be in a part of the car covered by the manufacturer`s express warranty, but it is not limited to things which make the car driveable. Leaks, lack of air conditioning or heat or serious paint problems, to name a few, could be defects which substantially impair the value of the vehicle to the buyer.

Also, in order for the vehicle to be seriously defective, the defect must have appeared within the express warranty period. The lemon law requires all vehicles to have an express warranty of at least twelve months or twelve thousand miles. If the express warranty period exceeds 24 months or 24,000 miles, the consumer`s right to a replacement or refund is limited to defects which first occur within that first 24 months or 24,000. For warranty defects which occur after within the warranty period, but after the lemon law`s 24 month/24,000 mile limitation, the consumer would have to seek compensation for failure to repair if the vehicle is not repaired after a reasonable number of attempts. Compensation for failure to repair is the difference in the value of the car as it is and the value it would have if repaired, or the cost of repairs.

Note that the express warranty on a new motor vehicle stated in a number of miles begins from the date the vehicle is delivered to the consumer. For example, if a demonstration model with a 24,000 mile warranty has 4,000 miles on it when the consumer buys it, the warranty will remain in effect until the vehicle has 28,000 miles on it.

Reasonable Number of Attempts:
The law presumes that a reasonable number of attempts have been undertaken to fix the defects if:

  1. The same defect has been presented to the manufacturer, or its authorized dealer for repair four or more times without success, or
  2. The vehicle has been out of service during or while awaiting repair of a defect or series of defects for a cumulative total of 20 or more business days during any 12 month period of the warranty, provided that the consumer has notified the manufacturer directly in writing of the existence of the defects or series of defects and allowed the manufacturer a reasonable period, but not more than 15 calendar days, to fix them. This last requirement makes it vital that customers write the manufacturer directly about the problems early on if the dealer is having trouble getting them fixed. Do not let the dealer talk you out of writing the manufacturer directly. You must do this to get your rights under the law.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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