The Lemon Law – What You Need to Know if You Have a Lemon Car

lemon car

When you purchase a new car, do you expect it to break down every other week? No, especially if the dealer says nothing is wrong with it when you bought the car. But the same issues continue to come up soon after you purchase it. You know you’ve done nothing wrong to have these problems come up, and it’s the fourth time you had to have this “lemon car” repaired. If this happens, what can you do?

Rest assured, there are laws that help car buyers for when this type of situation comes up. Read on to learn more about these “lemon car” situations and what you can do about them.

What is the Lemon Law?

When you buy a new car, you should not have to worry about repeated breakdowns or safety issues. If your new car has spent more time in the repair shop than on the road, then you might have a “lemon car.” Fortunately, you don’t have to be stuck with a lemon car; consumer protection laws give you the right to request a replacement for the car or a refund. Every state has Lemon Laws that protect new car buyers from being saddled with an irreparable car.

The Lemon Law started back in 1984. The government of the United States established this law to protect consumers against automobile manufacturer and dealer fraud. Each individual state has Lemon Laws that cover defective trucks, cars, vans, SUVs, boats, and motorcycles. If your new vehicle continues to have problems after multiple attempts at repairs, then you are entitled to compensation under your state’s Lemon Laws. Any recurring issue that affects the safety, use or value of a vehicle could deem the car a lemon.

To take advantage of these benefits, it is best to consult an auto fraud attorney who is knowledgeable of lemon laws. They can help you understand what qualifies as a lemon and how to get a replacement car or a refund.

What is the Lemon Law in California?

California law protects consumers from being saddled with cars that experience recurring mechanical problems or other issues. If you are making repeated visits to the auto repair shop, then you might have a lemon on your hands.

California Lemon Laws protect you from dangerous defects that can’t be repaired. California entitles buyers to get a refund or replacement vehicle if:

  • Two or more attempts have been made to fix a problem under warranty. The car must be within the first 18 months of delivery or have less than 18,000 miles on the odometer. Additionally, the problem must be likely to cause serious bodily injury or death if the car is driven.
  • If the problem will not necessarily result in death or severe injury, but it substantially decreases the value, use, or safety of the car, then the vehicle might still be considered to be a “lemon” if four attempts to fix the problem has been made, and the car is under warranty.  

New, used cars and leased trucks, vans, and SUVs still under the manufacturer’s warranty are covered under California Lemon Laws. The Lemon Law applies throughout the original manufacturer’s warranty in California. Consult with a California auto fraud attorney for more information about California Lemon Laws and advice on making a claim. Under California law, manufacturers’ are required to cover the attorney’s fees for consumers that are covered under the Lemon Law.

Are Used Cars Covered Under the Lemon Law?

Although Lemon Laws protect new car buyers in every state in the U.S., used car buyers don’t have the same protections — unless the vehicle is covered under warranty. There are only a few states in the nation that provide used car buyers with broader protections under Lemon Laws. Six states have Lemon Laws that give a higher degree of protection to used car buyers. Consumers in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey and Minnesota have more rights under Lemon Laws.

The individual protections provided under these laws vary considerably.  A good lawyer who is well-versed in Lemon Laws can help you determine if you have a case and help guide you through the legal process of filing a claim. Even if you are not protected under the Lemon Laws in your state, a lawyer might be able to help you get compensation under consumer protection laws. Many lawyers don’t charge a fee until after the case is settled.  

Do Lemon Laws Apply to Private Sales?

Buying a used car has never been easy thanks to auto classified sites that list thousands of cars for sale. Unfortunately, scams are aplenty on these sites. While buying a used car from a private seller might seem like an excellent way to save money on a used car, you should exercise caution. That is because used vehicles purchased from private sellers are not covered under the same protections as those purchased from a dealer.

In most states, Lemon Laws do not apply to private sales. Most of the time, individual sales are considered to be “as-is.” Unless the seller offered you a warranty, you probably won’t have grounds for a Lemon Law claim.  However, there are exceptions. In Massachusetts — for instance — the Lemon Law and the Lemon Aid Law applies to the private sale of used cars.

The Lemon Aid Law allows a buyer to cancel the purchase of a car within the first seven days if it fails to pass state inspection. Under the state’s Lemon Law, a seller is required to inform buyers of all known defects. The buyer can cancel the sale of the vehicle within the first 30 days if they can prove that the seller knew about the defect and did not disclose it.

Even if you don’t live in Massachusetts or have Lemon Law protections for private sales in your state, you still have recourse if you purchased a defective car from an individual seller. You can sue the seller for fraud if the vehicle was misrepresented. The key to winning a case like this is to convince the judge or jury that the seller lied about the car’s condition. Talk to an attorney that is knowledgeable of auto fraud and Lemon Laws in your state for more information about filing a lawsuit.

What is a Lemon Law Buyback?

Every state in the U.S. has some Lemon Law. The Lemon Laws were passed to protect consumers that have purchased new— or in some cases — used vehicles that are defective or unrepairable. After reasonable repairs, a car can be declared a lemon.

Under Lemon Laws, new car owners — and used car owners in some states — can force the manufacturer to buy back a defective vehicle or refund the sales price of the car.  If your new car, truck, van or SUV is found to be a lemon, then the manufacturer must repurchase your vehicle or refund your money. This repurchase of your vehicle is called a Lemon Law Buyback. If your car is designed as a Lemon Buyback, then you are entitled to receive reimbursement for the money that you spent on the down payment, monthly payments, taxes and part of your registration.

Cars that are “buybacks” must be registered as a Lemon Buyback prior to being resold. If you believe that you are entitled to a Lemon Buyback under your state’s laws or if you were sold a Lemon Buyback and not notified of the fact in writing, then contact an attorney skilled in Lemon Laws.

Is There a Lemon Law for a Used Car in California?

In California, vehicle buyers are protected against being saddled with a defective used car under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, also known as California Lemon Law. All vehicles that are purchased or leased from a California dealership are protected under Lemon Laws as long as they are still within the original manufacturer’s warranty period. The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act also covers demonstration vehicles. California’s Lemon Law protects used cars under warranty if any of the following apply:

  • At least two attempts have been made to repair a problem that could result in death or serious injury if the automobile is driven.
  • Four or more attempts have been made to repair an issue that would lower the value of the car, make it less safe to drive or impact the use of the vehicle.
  • The vehicle has been in the shop for repairs for a total of at least 30 days.

If either of these criteria is met, then the buyer might be eligible for a refund of the purchase price of the car or a replacement vehicle under California’s Lemon Laws.

Contact an attorney skilled in California’s Lemon Laws to understand your rights and determine what options you have available. In most cases, you will not have to pay any attorney’s fees out-of-pocket until after your case is settled.

The Lemon Law – What You Need to Know if You Have a Lemon Car
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