How Do Car Lemon Laws Work In Different States

Sometimes, dealers receive vehicles from auto manufacturers that are in bad shape but are unaware of the issue. Or they may know about the problem and still decide to sell it. A car lemon law provides buyers with financial and legal protection in the event that they find OUT the vehicle has issues after completing the purchase.

So, if you intend to lease or purchase a new or used car, you should learn more about the lemon laws in your state. Below, we explain in detail what a lemon car is, what are the lemon laws for used cars, and how to protect yourself.

What Is a Lemon Car

A lemon car has substantial defects that lower the vehicle's use, safety, or value. For instance, a lemon is a vehicle with significant defects that can’t be fixed within a reasonable time frame. Usually, states require three to four unsuccessful attempts before a vehicle is deemed a lemon. Lemon laws usually apply to brand-new motor vehicles that are under warranty. However, older, defective cars that are also covered by warranties in some areas may also fall under this law.

How Do Lemon Laws Work

Federal and state consumer protection regulations are in place to ensure that the seller and automobile manufacturer are responsible for their products. The customer is entitled to a refund or a replacement if the defect in question is too serious and the vehicle cannot be repaired.

Every state in the US has lemon car legislation protecting new car buyers. But do lemon laws apply to used cars? Unfortunately, the law hasn't kept up with the industry, so applying these regulations to used cars is challenging, especially if the manufacturer's guarantee has already run out. Currently, only six states have adopted vehicle lemon laws, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Minnesota, and New York, New Mexico.

The regulations offer a statutory warranty period for used cars, which is frequently based on the age or usage of the car. The auto dealer has an opportunity to fix any issues that arise while the car is under warranty protection. In most cases, the dealer must either replace the automobile or refund the buyer's purchase price if such repairs don't work after several tries.


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Invoking Lemon Laws

If it’s clear that the vehicle cannot be restored to a high level of reliability, the buyer may request a replacement or refund. Every state has a distinct approach to employing a lemon law. Still, in every state, the vehicle owner must inform the auto manufacturer or dealer of their issues with the vehicle.

Keep a record of the difficulties' nature and when they first occurred. Then, take your car to the manufacturer or dealer for repairs as soon as possible. Don't rely on the dealer or manufacturer to keep your repair-related records for you; keep them all yourself. This is to notify the manufacturer that you’ve done all possible to repair the issue but are still pursuing a replacement vehicle or a full refund of your purchase price. It also gives the business a chance to respond appropriately.

If you aren’t satisfied with simply making a claim, you may pursue arbitration or legal action. Usually, before the arbitration hearing, the car dealer or manufacturer would propose a settlement. Depending on the circumstances, a settlement could entail paying out the debt and returning the buyer's money, providing a replacement car at a discount, or making a fixed payment for a new car.

Keep in mind that many manufacturers tend to challenge lemon law claims, so you should obtain reputable legal counsel early in the process to improve your prospects of a satisfactory settlement.




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How To Protect Yourself

It’s against the law to change the mileage or fail to declare any significant incidents the car has been in. But that doesn't mean that some car sellers don’t engage in such dishonest actions. As a result, you’re in charge of thoroughly scrutinizing the vehicle before agreeing to purchase it as-is. Here are a few simple steps that can help you avoid lemon cars.


  • Get the car’s history: Check the car report to look for significant damage. Keep in mind that the service can only provide the vehicle history if you can access the VIN (vehicle identifying number).


  • Check the interior: Examine the floorboards, ceiling, dashboard, and upholstery visually. Keep an eye out for stains, plastic fractures, or seat rips.

  • Inspect the car’s exterior: Start off by checking the body and tires for rust, dents, and other damage. Inspect the grips and hinges on each door by opening and closing it. The last step is to ensure the exhaust pipe is connected correctly.

  • See what’s going on under the hood: While it’s common for engines to have dust and grime, they should be generally clean and clear of debris. Also, don’t forget to look for loose nuts, leaking hoses, and battery deterioration.

  • Visit a reputable repair shop: Visit an independent shop for repair so that an impartial mechanic may check the car’s exhaust system, brakes, and engine for problems. While you might not spot issues, an experienced mechanic certainly will.


  • Take your time: Read the fine print thoroughly before making a purchase. Go through the paperwork carefully and check to see if the car is being sold with a guarantee, whether it requires repairs, and whether the seller will assist with the repairs’ cost.


  • Test-drive the car: The simplest stay away from purchasing a lemon car is to get behind the wheel. The vehicle should start on the first try. Once the engine is up and running, check the steering, listen for noises, look at the dashboard lights, try the amenities, and see how the car reacts when you stop and restart it.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know what is a lemon car, you’re aware that you might be on the hook for expensive repair bills to make the vehicle safe to drive. Even worse, you might find out the car has damage that can’t be fixed, making it undrivable.


While you could take a few steps to protect yourself, you might still end up with a used lemon vehicle which doesn’t fall under your state’s lemon laws. If that’s the case, you may consider junking it. Find a reputable junkyard like Orthodox Auto Company, get a quote, and get rid of the vehicle easily in exchange for some fair cash. We buy damaged cars because we believe each provides a unique opportunity. We’ll scrape salvageable parts and help someone else save their car!