If a vehicle has been unsuccessfully repaired four or more times for the same problem within the warranty time, and this problem seriously devalues the vehicle or interferes with its use, the vehicle is classified as a “lemon”. The lemon law varies from state to state, so check with the specific laws and statutes for your state if you think your vehicle is affected. Please note that the manufacturer’s warranty may or may not coincide with the warranty referenced in the law.
Many people are unaware that the the lemon law exists, especially if the law is not available in their state. In certain situations, there may be legal means to address the purchase warranty issue when dealing with a used vehicle.
State Used Car Lemon Laws
Many states do not have a lemon law for used vehicles, but used car dealers are required to offer at least a token warranty on most of their used cars. In this situation, the warranty requirement is an alternative that can serve as the lemon law. Unfortunately, unlike the new car lemon laws, you will need to count on the dealer that you got the car from and not the manufacturer of the car; this will make a difference. Generally, and this varies from state to state, used car dealers only have to offer a very short warranty period that begins with the date of purchase. Used care dealers do not have an obligation to even specify the length of the warranty period; as long as their warranty meets state requirements, it is legal.
In most states, a car will be defined as a “lemon” if there are 10 different mechanical issues during the warranty period. However, a vehicle with only one issue can be considered a lemon in some states if this issue may cause serious injury and if the manufacturer cannot fix the problem in a single attempt.
Check web sites such as carlemon.com for state-specific vehicle warranty requirements and for your state’s used car lemon laws. There is a tremendous amount of information here, as well as useful tips. Also, you find the the federal requirements for each dealer by state.
If you purchase a used vehicle that you feel may be a lemon, the first thing you should do is contact the dealer that you got the car from. No matter how big or small the problem, try to get help from your dealer immediately. The dealership will have to refund your money in some instances, but generally they are not required to do so. Instead, they will usually try to fix the problem if it is determined that it should not significantly impair the vehicle’s operation.
Always document all repairs and maintenance for your vehicle. Anyone can purchase a used lemon car, but if you do, and you allow the manufacturer to repair the defect, you will generally lose any legal rights you may have under state warranty laws.
If your dealership is not willing to honor the warranty on the car that you purchased, you can try to get help from your state’s attorney general’s office. In most states, there are personnel just for helping consumers with possible lemon care problems.
When buying a used car, please consider shopping at used car lots, as there are countless vehicles available from these establishments.