If you've wondered "what is the lemon law" you probably have purchased a defective automobile or product. Learning about lemon laws, and more importantly if the law could apply to your situation, is the first step in obtaining restitution.
If a product, especially something as important and valuable as an automobile, is not working correctly it can mean a loss of time, money, and of course frustration. Understanding the basics of 'what is the lemon law' can help you understand your rights and obtain the compensation you deserve.
A simple answer to ‘what is the lemon law?’ is that lemon laws refer to specific state statutes that are under the umbrella of consumer protection laws. These laws help to protect consumers by establishing variables such as the specific type of products covered, amount of time a product is covered, and the number of times a repair must have been attempted before it can be classified a lemon. The state statues also spell out what the manufacturer must do if the vehicle or product qualifies as a lemon.
Although it sounds simple, these statues can be complex. Each state has enacted different statutes that pertain to vehicles or consumer products and designed to help protect the consumer.
Although other products such as boats, ATVs, and even puppies can be protected under state lemon laws, the most common consumer product that people think of in regards to the lemon law is cars. Most state statutes specifically spell out the lemon law for cars. If your issue is specifically with your automobile you will want to refer to your states statutes to determine if your car qualifies.
One of the first questions to answer regarding ‘what is the lemon law?’ and ‘how does it apply to you?’ is whether the car in question is new vs. used. A majority of state statutes apply only to new cars. However, some states do have provisions under their used car lemon laws.
The issue is specifically linked to your vehicle’s warranty. New cars are sold with vehicle warranties that specify coverage for a specific number of miles or months. It is under the umbrella of this warranty that the lemon law for cars generally applies. For used cars sold by dealers with warranties, coverage under the state’s lemon law may apply.
Most state statues break down the lemon law into three main components:
1. What specific vehicles are covered under the law(for example new cars, motorcycles, motor homes)
2. The minimum number of repair attempts and/or the number of days the vehicle is unavailable while being repaired.
3. The coverage period (for example 2 years or 24,000).
To determine if your situation qualifies, visit your state’s lemon law summary page where the specific variables for your state are detailed.
If your car does not qualify under your state lemon law statutes, or if your state’s lemon law for cars does not cover used cars, there is a federal lemon law that may apply. This statute is called the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act. In general it falls under the breach of warranty (BOW) theory.
Compensation under this act is different than under than state lemon laws. Instead of a refund for the defective vehicle, restitution is the difference between the Kelly blue book value of the car in excellent conditions vs. good or poor condition.
If you are considering making a lemon law claim consider doing the following:
1. Keep accurate records of repairs made and the amount of time you did not have your car or consumer product available for use.
2. Contact the dealer or manufacturer directly indicating you are considering making a lemon law claim.
3. If you have questions regarding your state’s lemon laws, contact your state’s attorney general’s office.
4. Consider having a lemon law lawyer review your case. Most case reviews are free to the consumer.