The automobile lemon law is designed to protect consumers from irreparable manufacturer’s problems in cars that should be covered by a car warranty.
Back in 1972, when consumer demand for lemon law protection started to swell, more than 1 million people were found to have paid for vehicles that had many defects that dealers could not, or fixnot, correct. Connecticut and California were the first states to take up an automobile lemon law, and other states were quick to follow.
Today, with the increased accountability demanded by lemon laws, that number has dropped to about 100,000 new cases a year.
What Protection Is Given By Lemon Law?
Although every American state has an automobile lemon law, the specifics of each law vary widely. On the whole, you are a candidate for protection under the lemon law if you have a major problem (or, in some cases, a string of minor problems) that falls under your car guarantee. A problem is usually considered serious when it threatens the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. Examples of major problems that would probably be covered under lemon law include brake failure, transmission problems, and frequent situations where the automobile won’t start. The lemon law in most states will not cover situations like funny noises, loose cup holders, and flaking paint.
The type of vehicle is also important when it comes to protection under the lemon law. In some states, leased vehicles are covered as well as purchased vehicles. Some states exclude automobiles purchased for business purposes or special kinds of vehicles such as RVs and motorcycles. Even used vehicles may be covered by the lemon law, if they come with a car guarantee.
Some unscrupulous automotive dealers write a clause in the sales contract that states that no lemon law claims can be made against the vehicle. These provisions, however, are not legally valid and can be ignored. As long as your vehicle has a car service contract and qualifies under the other automobile lemon law provisions, you will be covered no matter what you signed.
Before the automobile lemon law applies, you must give the manufacturer sufficient opportunity to correct the problem. In most cases, this is defined as a precise number of repair attempts (for example, four attempts to repair the same problem) or a certain amount of time when the vehicle is off the road (for example, four weeks). A life-threatening vehicular defect may require only one attempt at repair before falling under the lemon law.
What Should I Do If I Qualify for the Automobile Lemon Law?
If you believe that you qualify for protection under the lemon law, you must make a claim with the manufacturer within a certain period of time. In most states, the case will then be brought for arbitration with the manufacturer. If you win your automobile lemon law case, you will usually receive a replacement vehicle or a refund of your purchase price minus a fee for vehicle use.