Lemon Laws for Used Cars

Does your state have lemon laws for used cars? Lemon law statues are designed to protect consumers. Unfortunately, not all states have lemon laws that cover used cars. What about your state? If it does, what steps should you take to obtain compensation? Learning if your state has used car lemon laws that protect you can help you determine if you have any recourse if your car is a lemon.

What is a Lemon?

The definition as to if an automobile qualifies as a lemon is determined by individual state statutes. Most states specify a minimum number of repair attempts and/or a specified number of days in which the car is out of service. State statues also generally indicate a coverage time period, either based on a specific number of miles, the express warranty, or a number of months or years.

A majority of state lemon laws are specifically for new cars. That doesn’t mean, however that lemon laws for used cars do not exist or that you have no recourse.

Are There Used Car Lemon Laws?

Yes, there are. Many states have instituted lemon laws for used cars. For example, although the California lemon laws apply specifically to new cars, there are provisions in the law that helps to protect used car consumers. Many other states also have such provisions. These provisions cover used cars that are sold with express written warranties.

An express written warranty can be either a) the balance of a manufacturer’s warranty, b) a separate limited warranty given by the dealer, or c) an extended warranty or service contract you purchase from the dealer at the time you purchase the vehicle. If you have such a warranty, the substance of the new car lemon laws applies.

In addition, some states have consumer protection statutes which prohibit deceptive acts in the sale of used cars. These laws generally require that a car dealer respond to every question honestly. To the extent that you purchased a used vehicle as a result of a false representation, you may have a claim against the dealership.

Additionally, some states require that a dealership disclose certain facts about used cars, such as whether it was a rental, has been salvaged or used as a demonstrator even if the purchaser doesn't ask.

Because express written warranties are generally not provide through individuals, realize that vehicles sold by private parties may not covered under such laws and therefore the used car lemon laws would not apply.

What Should You Do If You Think Your Car Is A Lemon?

First, if you want to possibly make a lemon law claim, you’ll need to keep detailed records. Keep records of all problems, repairs performed, and the amount of time your car is unavailable while repairs are being made. Without these documents, proving your car is a lemon will be a challenge. If you did not collect documents when problems first arose, ask the dealer for the repair records.

To help you organize your documentation, click on this link for a repair log: Lemon Law Repair Log

Second, in order to potentially invoke used car lemon laws, you must communicate with the dealer attempting to fix the vehicle that you feel your car might qualify as a lemon. If the dealer is not complying, contact the manufacturer directly, detailing the problem. When contacting the manufacturer, specifically ask for their procedure for making a lemon law claim. Realize that because some state’s used car lemon laws are based on the express warranty, time may be of the essence. If a dealer is not completing repairs in a timely manner, you may be faced with your warranty expiring.

A final step you can take is to hire a lemon law attorney. A lemon law attorney will be able to tell you if your state has lemon laws for used cars and if your car might qualify. The good news is that the lawyer fees are generally free to the consumer. If an attorney who specializes in lemon laws loses your case, they don’t get paid. If they win, the manufacturer pays the legal fees. Thus, if you do not feel like the dealer or manufacture has provided sufficient restitution, hiring a lemon law lawyer is definitely worth the effort.

Lemon Laws for Used Cars Resources

If your car does not qualify under your states used car lemon laws, there may be other options. Another potential resource is the federal lemon law.

This statute is called the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act. In general it falls under the breach of warranty (BOW) theory. Restitution under this act is different than under than new car lemon laws. Instead of reimbursement for the vehicle, restitution is the difference between the Kelly blue book value of the car in excellent conditions vs. good or poor condition.

Again, if you are unclear if there are lemon laws for used cars in your state, a lemon law attorney can be hired at no cost to you to determine if the federal lemon law applies to your case.

Not all states have lemon laws for used cars. If in question, contact your states attorney general’s office or a lemon law attorney to see if your car qualifies.

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