All states have their own version of a car lemon law; they are based on and similar to the Moss-Magnuson Warranty Act making a breach of a warranty a violation of federal law.
Although each state has its own version of lemon laws, generally speaking if your car has been in for repair three or four times for the same problem it can qualify as a lemon. Most laws also define a limit on the amount of time the car is in for repair.
What qualifies as a lemon?
In most states for a car to qualify as a lemon it must have a “substantial” defect that is covered by the warranty, the defect must have occurred within a specified time limit or number of miles after the car was purchased and the fault cannot be rectified after a “reasonable” number of attempts. In all cases there is a state lemon law for new cars, this is not the case for used cars, only certain states have a used car lemon law.
There are two primary issues with a car lemon law; what is meant by substantial and what is meant by reasonable. These terms are often contentious but basically there is an established definition. A “substantial” defect is one that has a negative impact on the value of the vehicle or it impairs the safety or the use of the car. An example of a substantial defect would be faulty brakes, in the event of brake failure there is a definite issue with use and safety. Minor defects rarely meet the definition of substantial. The difference between minor and substantial can be a very fine line. Although a car that has a terrible smell may not make the car unsafe, it can still be considered substantial as it has an impact on the cars value.
The next contentious issue is the definition of “reasonable.” You must allow the dealer you bought the car from or the vehicle manufacturer a reasonable number of attempts to repair the defect. Once again, state laws do differ but usually for you to be protected by your states lemon law there are conditions that must be met.
* A single repair attempt for a serious defect affecting vehicle safety
* Three or four repair attempts for a defect that does not affect safety
* A certain number of days when the car is in for repair for one or more warranty defects
If the car you purchased meets the definitions under your states car lemon law you have the right to a refund of the purchase price or a replacement car.
For complete information on your lemon law rights and the car lemon law in your state you are invited to visit Krohn & Moss Consumer Law Center.