In the United States, lemon law is designed to remedy a recent automobile purchase that has consistently failed to meet basic quality and performance tests. By intentionally selling a vehicle that needs multiple repairs in order to function or alternatively, continue functioning at an acceptable level, the buyer has the right to file a complaint. This also applies to other goods but protection under lemon laws varies from state to state.
Knowing the exact terms for your state could be beneficial in determining how and when lemon protection laws are applicable to your situation. If a neighboring state generally allows up to three repairs on the same parts before an automobile can be declared a lemon but your state opts for only two, you could immediately save money on a third repair and get refunded for your purchase.
What Vehicles are Covered?
Generally speaking, all states that have lemon laws will cover vehicles that are owned for personal use and accepted on public highways. Most states have car manufacturers participating in lemon laws so if a brand is covered in one state, it means they’re covered in all others most of the time. This includes all makes and models that are considered motor vehicles for use on public highways (i.e. motorcycles, semi-trucks, and other transport vehicles are also covered).
However, there are some states that do not adhere to these general rules. The difference between states can be divided into five categories:
(1) Coverage by car registration, which logically means you can only file a complaint in the state your car is registered in and not anywhere else;
(2) Whether your automobile is used primarily as a transport vehicle or if it’s also considered a mobile home;
(3) Whether the state adds pre-owned vehicle protection under lemon laws
(4) The make and model of your vehicle in comparison to the repairs needed and the age of parts under the hood; and
(5) Whether the lemon law in your state covers original purchasers of vehicles, transfers, leasers, and/or transfers under applicable warranties.
For example, Alabama, Arizona, and Colorado cover used vehicles under their lemon laws while Alaska and California do not. Arkansas may cover used vehicles depending on when the vehicle was transferred to the new owner. Hawaii covers used vehicles but does not have lemons laws for motorcycles, mopeds, or vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds. The state of Georgia does not cover used vehicles or motorcycles, mopeds, and vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds. Florida covers cars and trucks that are used for transportation of people or property while the District of Columbia only covers cars used primarily for transportation with optional passengers.
It would seem evidently clear that the various terms and conditions for vehicles covered differ in many states along those five categories. In order to fully appreciate the protection of lemon laws in your area, it would be advisable to look them up directly instead of applying one state’s protection with another. While the basics will arguably remain the same, there are substantial differences that could either help or harm you depending on the coverage.
What Consumers Are Covered?
You can automatically assume that purchasers of new vehicles will be covered under lemon laws as long as the automobile in question is for the transportation of people and accepted on public highways. Generally speaking, this only applies to vehicles that are for personal use and complaints cannot be made if the buyer made the purchase for commercial purposes.
A state’s lemon law only applies if the vehicle is registered there. Only the lemon law from the state your automobile is registered to will apply. The differences in states can be divided into three basic diverging coverage areas:
(1) In addition to protection for original purchasers of new vehicles, whether your state’s lemon laws cover buyers of used vehicles, new owners of transferred vehicles, and leasers of new or used automobiles
(2) Whether your state’s lemon laws only cover people who purchase automobiles or legal representatives, partnerships, corporations, companies, trusts, and business entities as well; and
(3) Whether subsequent transfers of ownership will still be covered under lemons laws including original manufacturer warranties.
For example, the states of Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland all provide lemon law protection for transfers of ownership and will enforce warranties if the original is still valid. However, Illinois, Kansas, and Kentucky only provide coverage for the original purchasers. They do not provide lemon law protection for any subsequent owners after a transfer. Kentucky goes even further and states that the vehicle in question must be completely whole and been assembled in or bought from an authorized dealership, manufacturer, brand, and/or distributor. Illinois adds lemon laws for the purchase of fire trucks or automobiles purchased for a fire department.
As long as you’re an original purchaser of a vehicle, you’re essentially covered under a lemon law regardless of the state in question. Subsequent transfers or new ownerships of used vehicles will vary from state to state and this is arguably what should be determined before making a purchase.
What Vehicle Problems Are Covered?
Like most protection laws or extended warranties, there is no remedy for damages done to your vehicle through intentional harm, neglect, abuse, or unauthorized modifications. This should be assumed in all states. Legitimate damages that cause the vehicle to stop functioning properly, which can be determined through different means, are called nonconformities and it’s up to the car manufacturer to repair your automobile.
However, there are limitations and conditions that must be met in order to receive repairs under lemon laws. There are also differences between states when it comes to car repairs like: How long lemon laws protect new vehicles and whether original warranties are enforced even if they’ve technically passed their expiration date; How many repairs by the original manufacturer or automotive shop it takes before a vehicle can be called a lemon; How a consumer contacts a manufacturer for repairs and whether they’ll honor lemon laws if you do not follow their explicit instructions; After a vehicle has been declared a lemon, whether the consumer has the right to request a refund or replacement vehicle from the manufacturer.
For example, the states of Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, and Nevada require at least four attempts at repair before your vehicle can be called a lemon. Massachusetts and New Jersey only require three attempts. New York is a little different in that manufacturers must repair your vehicle if you have a warranty or if you’re under 18,000 miles or 2 years of ownership. While there are restrictions to this, you’re generally going to receive repairs in New York if you meet one of those criteria.
Most states generally require written notice of a complaint along with X number of days to respond to it either with an offer to repair or to replace. Most states also have a one year period after warranties have expired for purchasers to file complaints. After this period, you cannot claim damages under lemon laws.
What’t the bottom line on lemon law statutes?
So there you have the ins and outs of lemon law and how it differs from state to state. Your best bet would be to contact a lawyer in your state who specializes in this field. He or she will know all of the statutes and be able to not only determine whether or not you have a case but also help you get together all of the necessary documentation to get restitution.
No matter where you live in the United States, there are laws that protect you when it comes to buying used cars.