people pushing a lemon car

What is the Lemon Law? (2023 Update)

You may have heard someone use the word lemon to describe a car and wonder, “What’s a lemon car?” A lemon is a legal term describing a car that has a defect that the manufacturer cannot repair after making several attempts. If you have a lemon car, you may be entitled to compensation, such as a replacement vehicle or a refund. 

At Robison Lemon Law Group LLC, we have plenty of experience with lemons. If you need legal help as you try to get your lemon repaired or replaced, we can assist. To get started, please reach out to us today.  

​​Why Is It Called Lemon Law? 

When you hear the term lemon law, you may ask yourself, “Why is it called lemon law?” The origin of calling a car a lemon remains unknown, but there are several theories about why defective cars have been referred to as “lemons.” Some have speculated that British people once referred to substandard cars as lemons in the early 1900s, while others have noted that there was a “lemon game” in the pool in which one person would hustle others.

In the United States, the first lemon law was introduced and passed in 1982. Since then, lemon laws have become commonplace across the country. Canada, Australia, and several countries in the European Union have passed lemon law statutes of their own, too. 

No one wants to buy a lemon car, but auto manufacturers and dealers sometimes supply them. If you have purchased a car and believe you are the victim of buying a lemon, you are legally protected under the lemon laws in your state. You can even hire a lemon law lawyer to represent you and make sure that you are able to submit a lemon law claim in alignment with your state’s laws.

How the Lemon Law Works

There are federal and state consumer protection laws known as lemon laws that protect consumers who have purchased a new car that qualifies as a lemon. In some states (such as New York and Pennsylvania), a lemon car refers to one that a consumer leases. Meanwhile, several states consider lemons to be used and new vehicles.

In general, lemon laws require a manufacturer to either provide a customer with a replacement vehicle or a refund if they cannot repair the lemon after making a certain number of attempts. The defect in question must be substantial. Furthermore, the specific number of repair attempts that must be made to prove that a defect is substantial differs from state to state and also depends on various factors.

Robison Lemon Law Group LLC is a law firm that specializes in lemon law litigation. If you believe you purchased a lemon, but your auto manufacturer refuses to cover your repair or replacement costs, we can assist. For more information, please get in touch with us, and we can connect you with an experienced lemon law attorney. 

State Requirements for Lemons

Each state has different requirements regarding what makes a car a lemon. For example, under the NY lemon law, a car may be a lemon if it is a new vehicle you use for household or similar purposes with a defect that takes more than four attempts for the dealership to address. Other states have additional or different requirements about when the law deems a car to be a lemon. 

While a majority of states only offer consumer protection for purchasers of a new car, some states also offer protection for used or leased vehicles that meet certain requirements. In addition, most lemon laws require the manufacturer to pay your attorney’s fees and other costs if you win your claim. You also have legal rights under consumer protection laws such as the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act and the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC).

If you purchase or lease a vehicle that is inoperable or requires excessive repairs for the same issue within a short time after your transaction, you may be entitled to compensation in accordance with your state’s lemon law. By partnering with a lemon law lawyer, you can boost your chances of getting the compensation you deserve under the law if you unknowingly purchased a lemon. Your attorney will represent your best interests and make sure you can prepare a compelling argument to help you secure compensation from a negligent auto manufacturer. 

Lemon Car Definition

A lemon car is a legal term used to describe a vehicle that has a serious and irreparable problem or defect. Each state has its own requirements for what defects a car must have to be classified as a lemon. On top of these requirements, some states include used or leased vehicles in the definition of a lemon, while others do not.

In most states, a car must meet the following criteria to be defined as a lemon:

  • The car has a serious or substantial defect that occurs within a certain period after the consumer purchased it.
  • The car defect is covered under the vehicle’s warranty. 
  • The defect is an ongoing problem, despite the fact that the owner has attempted to have the issue repaired a reasonable number of times.

The number of repair attempts the consumer must make depends on the applicable state law. For example, under the Illinois lemon law, the consumer generally must attempt to repair their vehicle by taking it to the dealership at least four times to address the same or a similar problem. In other states, the number of repair attempts that a consumer needs to complete before their car is deemed to be a lemon may be more or less than this total. 

State Lemon Law Restrictions That You Need to Know About

State laws may reduce the number of repair attempts before someone needs to file a lemon law claim if a vehicle defect presents a safety hazard. For example, Maryland law states that a consumer only needs to make one repair attempt for a brake or steering issue that causes their vehicle to fail a state inspection. Also, if a car is inoperable for a certain amount of time because of this defect, the consumer may not need to make additional repair attempts.

State lemon laws also have restrictions on what kinds of vehicles qualify for protection. For example, the Illinois lemon law does not include motorcycles, boats, or altered or modified vehicles. Other states restrict vehicles by their size or whether the consumer uses them for household purposes. 

For questions about what applies to your specific situation, connect with a lemon law lawyer in your state. An experienced lemon law attorney commits the time, energy, and resources required to review your claim in detail. They can help you take legal action against a negligent auto manufacturer and make sure you get the compensation you deserve based on your vehicle’s substantial defect. 

What Is a Substantial Car Defect?

To qualify for lemon law protection in most states, a car must have a defect that substantially impairs its safety, use, or value. Most states consider faulty brakes or steering to be substantial defects since they make the car unsafe to operate. In contrast, minor problems, such as a stereo knob that falls off or a compartment that will not stay closed, are not considered substantial defects.

Each state requires a substantial defect to have occurred within either a designated period of time or a certain number of miles. For example, under the Illinois lemon law, a defect must occur within 12 months after you purchase your vehicle or in the first 12,000 miles you drive it, whichever occurs first. Other states may have longer or shorter requirements.

In addition, a substantial car defect must not be the result of abuse, neglect, or unauthorized alterations to the vehicle. If the defect arises because of a car accident, the state lemon law likely does not cover it, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. When pursuing a claim under a state’s lemon law statutes, the consumer (or their attorney) typically bears the burden of showing that they did not cause or contribute to the defect.

What Is Considered to Be a Reasonable Number of Attempted Repairs?

Even a car with a substantial defect is only considered to be a lemon if the manufacturer or dealership cannot fix the problem after a reasonable number of attempts. It is imperative that you contact your car dealer or manufacturer to inform them about the problem. You also need to give the dealer or manufacturer the opportunity to attempt to repair it.

State law varies on what is considered a “reasonable” number of attempted repairs before a car is classified as a lemon. Generally, most states require the manufacturer to attempt to repair the car three or four times. Yet, this amount may be lower if a defect poses a significant safety threat.

For example, New York’s lemon law presumes that a manufacturer has made a reasonable number of attempts to repair a problem if the manufacturer had the opportunity to repair the same problem during at least four visits. Moreover, a car problem must be an ongoing issue, or the car must have been in a repair shop for a combined total of 30 or more days for one or more problems.

How Much Time Does a Car Manufacturer or Dealer Have to Fix a Substantial Defect? 

The amount of time that an auto manufacturer or dealer has to repair a substantial vehicle defect depends on the state. For instance, the Pennsylvania lemon law establishes a presumption that a manufacturer or its dealer cannot repair or correct a defect within a reasonable time if there were at least three attempts to repair the same problem and the defect or nonconformity continues to exist. Under Pennsylvania’s lemon law, there is also a presumption that a car is a lemon if it was out-of-service for a combined total of 30 or more days for one or more problems. 

Comparatively, the New Jersey lemon law is similar to Pennsylvania’s, and it establishes a presumption that a manufacturer or dealer cannot repair or correct a defect within a reasonable time if there were at least three attempts to repair the same problem and the defect or nonconformity continues to exist. Also, NJ’s lemon law requires a vehicle to be in the repair shop for a cumulative total of 20 days or more to qualify as a lemon. However, under The Garden State’s lemon law, it may only be necessary to make one attempted repair if the defect continues and is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the consumer were to drive the car.

In every state, you will need to show that you notified the manufacturer during the required time period under the lemon law of that state. Additionally, you must show that you made the necessary amount of repair attempts or that the vehicle was in the repair shop for the statutory minimum amount of days. Thus, it is very important to keep careful records of all notices you send to the manufacturer and document all repair attempts made by the dealership or manufacturer. 

What Records Should You Keep to Show That You Have Attempted to Repair a Substantial Defect to Your Car?

Keep a close eye on your car repairs, the costs associated with them, and the time it takes to complete them. There are many pieces of information you should collect as you monitor work done to your vehicle. These include:

  • Repair bills
  • Work orders
  • Complaints
  • Any communications (including emails and phone records) with a manufacturer or dealer handling your repairs 

You can use these items to prove your lemon law claim and show how many repairs were attempted, the problem your car was experiencing, and, if applicable, how long the car was in the shop. When you present these items to a lemon law attorney, they can immediately help you build your case. They can then use the evidence that you have gathered to make your argument as strong as possible. 

What Should You Do If You Purchase a Lemon? 

If your vehicle meets the criteria of a lemon car as defined by your state, you may qualify for protection under the lemon law. If that is the case, you may have the right to obtain either a refund or a replacement car from the manufacturer. At this point, you may be eligible for relief under the lemon law in your state if the manufacturer refuses to either replace the car or refund them the purchase price.

For those who suspect their vehicle is a lemon car, notify the car manufacturer or dealer immediately. You should also keep detailed records of their receipts and communications with the negligent party. Ideally, the manufacturer or dealer will work with you to remediate your substantial vehicle defect. 

Even if a car manufacturer or dealer shows a willingness to fix your vehicle’s substantial defect, it is in your best interests to reach out to a lemon law lawyer. That way, you can ensure that your legal rights are protected. Your attorney will make sure that you do not miss the applicable filing deadline for your lemon law claim, too. 

Is Filing a Lemon Law Claim the Same Thing as Filing a Lawsuit?

It is important for consumers to know that filing a claim with the dealership is not the same thing as filing a lawsuit. If you file a claim with a dealership within a statutory deadline but do not file a lawsuit until a later date, you may not have a legal basis for the lawsuit. Therefore, it is critical to take immediate action to protect your legal rights.

The method of handling a lemon law case differs in each state. In New York, you have the option to participate in an arbitration program or file a lawsuit against a car manufacturer in court. Under the lemon laws of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, the courts may give you compensation for your attorney fees and other costs you incur. 

When you have a lemon law lawyer at your disposal, you are in a great position to secure the most compensation possible. Your lawyer can help you out if you are dealing with a car that has engine problems or similar performance or safety issues. Most importantly, your attorney can help you navigate the ins and outs of a lemon law claim and put you in the best position to resolve it as quickly as possible. 

What Are the Limitations to State Lemon Laws?

State law includes limits on the types of vehicles that qualify for protection. Along with this, states typically require a consumer to show that a defect arose within a certain amount of time or mileage marker after they purchased (or, in some cases, leased) their vehicle. Finally, states differ on whether a law covers both used and new vehicles or just new vehicles.

Generally, a car must have been used for personal or household purposes, as most lemon laws do not cover commercial vehicles. In some states, a lemon law may also extend consumer protection to boats, motorcycles, recreational vehicles (RVs), and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). To find out if your vehicle is covered in your state, get as much information as you can about the local lemon laws. 

Keep in mind that the lemon law process can vary based on the state where you are located as well. The process can be complicated, particularly if you are unsure about how to deal with a negligent auto manufacturer or dealer. Fortunately, a lemon law attorney can help you move through this process with speed and precision and avoid mistakes along the way. 

Are There Any Other Laws in Place to Protect Consumers Who Purchased Defective Vehicles?

Along with lemon laws, the federal warranty act, also known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and the Uniform Commercial Code protect consumers who purchase defective vehicles. The level of protection and what the consumer needs to prove to have a claim in accordance with either of these statutes depends on the circumstances. Please read below for more information about both the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and UCC.

Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act 

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a federal law that allows consumers to file a lawsuit against a manufacturer for breaching a written warranty. It enables consumers to receive compensation if they win their claim. This compensation can include attorney fees and other costs associated with a lawsuit.

Ultimately, the purpose of the Act is to prevent manufacturers from creating grossly unfair warranties. At the same time, the Act protects consumers from deceptive warranty practices. It also gives consumers significant rights in dealing with the manufacturer of a lemon car. 

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act often covers more vehicles than state lemon laws do. Some of the Act’s main requirements include that a vehicle is normally used for household or personal purposes. Per the Act, a vehicle must be subject to a written warranty.

Uniform Commercial Code

UCC is a comprehensive set of laws governing the sale of goods. All 50 states have adopted some version of the UCC. However, each state has its own variation of the law, and some (like Louisiana) have not adopted certain portions of UCC.

Under UCC, a consumer may receive a refund or replacement for a lemon car if a manufacturer breaches the warranty. To qualify for protection under UCC, you must show that a warranty includes certain language and meets various other conditions. Unlike the state lemon law, UCC does not include a definition of a lemon. 

To determine if a car is a lemon, courts look at applicable case law and other factors present in the circumstances to decide if a defect is substantial. Like the Magnuson-Moss Act, many state laws allow the consumer to receive compensation for attorney fees if they successfully bring legal action against a manufacturer under UCC. To achieve the best-possible claim results, it helps to partner with a best-in-class attorney. 

Can You Recover Compensation If Your Car Has Been Recalled?

Federal law requires manufacturers to send a notice by mail to owners of vehicles affected by a safety recall. If a recall has been issued for your car, you need to have the manufacturer or authorized dealer examine the vehicle without delay. In addition, if your vehicle is recalled and the dealer is taking an unreasonable amount of time to repair the defect or if a dealer refuses to repair the issue, you may have a lemon law case on your hands.

For those who are struggling to get help with a car recall, it helps to connect with an attorney. You can seek out a lemon law lawyer who can assist you with your recall issue. The attorney will ask you questions about your vehicle defect and recall and offer tips and recommendations on how to resolve your claim. 

A car manufacturer or dealer may be required to repair or replace vehicle defects based on a recall but decide not to do so. Thankfully, a lemon law attorney advocates for you and makes sure you get the legal help you need to follow through with a recall’s requirements. Your lawyer will do what is necessary to verify that you can get your recall work done and make sure your car is safe.  

Do I Need to Hire a Lemon Law Attorney?

You may have questions about the legal definition of a lemon car and similar topics. By hiring a lemon law attorney, you can get answers to these questions. Plus, your lawyer can help you file a lemon law claim and ensure that your case moves forward as planned. 

Of course, when you search for an attorney to represent you in a lemon law case, it helps to look at a lawyer’s experience. Find a lawyer who has a proven track record in lemon law cases. From here, you can schedule a date and time to go over your case with the attorney. 

If you are on the fence about partnering with a lemon law lawyer, a consultation can provide a great starting point. You can use the meeting to understand what the attorney can do for you and how they will approach your case. Finally, if you believe an attorney has what it takes to represent you in a lemon law case, you can hire them and work with them to pursue your claim to the fullest extent. 

Contact Robison Lemon Law Group LLC for a Free Case Review Today

The team at Robinson Lemon Law Group LLC can evaluate your lemon law case and recommend the best course of action. Please contact us today to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.

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