Many times when I speak to someone and tell them I practice “Lemon Law,” I get a blank stare in return. Once explained, it is usually followed up with “and there are enough people out there to support an entire firm?” I laugh and say “Yes! So many people do not realize how important Lemon Law and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act truly are until they have to use it!”
Most people have at least heard of lemon law, but don’t understand exactly how it works. Even less is known about the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which actually covers most of the claims I handle. Lemon Law and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act are consumer protection statues that, in a nutshell, ensure that when a consumer purchases or leases a vehicle, that the vehicle performs as it should. (Please see our state by state guide for more details.)
The main difference between Lemon Law and Magnuson-Moss is that Lemon Law focuses on “substantial defects.” Meaning, a warrantable defect that seriously impairs the vehicle’s use, value or safety. For example, a car that continually leaves you broken down on the side of the highway due to a transmission failure, has strong potential to qualifying under Lemon Law. Whereas a vehicle with a piece of trim that continually pops off the rear passenger door, most likely would not qualify. However, this defect is still covered!
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act covers all other defects, substantial or not, that repeatedly occur in a vehicle and are covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. This Act states that if you have a warrantable defect in your vehicle, that cannot be fixed within a reasonable amount of time, you may be entitled to damages. How these damages are assessed varies from state to state, but generally it is the difference at the date and time of purchase between the vehicle you purchased/leased versus the vehicle you actually received. To break it down, it is akin to when you buy a sweater from a store and after you purchase it for full price, you notice a stain on the cuff. You return to the store and are given a percentage of your money back because the sweater is defective. Similarly, you paid full price for a defective vehicle and may be entitled to a percentage of your money back because you did not get what you paid for.
Therefore, no matter how big or small the defect, as long as you had to return to a dealership multiple times for the same problem, and it is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, you may have a claim!