Purchasing a vehicle that has an issue or defect means a lot of stress and hassle for you as the auto buyer. Keeping that in mind, it is a wise idea to know the laws and regulations related to dealing with a lemon that are different depending on your state of residence.
Currently, Texas, Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Pennsylvania each have their own set of laws related to lemons. These laws have specific criteria and a specific process to determine the vehicle is a lemon and what should be done if the case is found in the auto buyer’s favor.
For example, the Pennsylvania Lemon Law covers cars or trucks that are purchased for personal use and that have issues arise within the first 12 months or before the odometer hits 12,000 miles. The defect must be something that has not been fixed despite three or more attempts and that impairs the use, safety or value of the vehicle.
Another criteria for a Pennsylvania lemon is that the vehicle cannot be driven (or is at the mechanic) for 30 days or more during that same period of time (12 months or 12,000 miles). For this criteria, the days don’t have to be consecutive, nor does the vehicle have to be at the shop for the same problem.
For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked lemon law questions, click here.
If the vehicle is determined to be a lemon in Pa., the vehicle might be repurchased by the manufacturer, a new vehicle provided in exchange or a significant amount of money may be provided to the owner of the lemon vehicle, while they are allowed to retain ownership.
In Connecticut, which was the first state to establish a lemon law for vehicle owners, the vehicle must show a defect within the first two years or 24,000 miles. The vehicle must be registered as a passenger vehicle, a combination vehicle or a motorcycle and must have been leased or purchased new within the state of Connecticut.
Vehicles must have undergone multiple attempts to fix the issue, with no discernible success. Also, for those who are leasing a vehicle, the leasing company must be made aware that you plan to apply for Lemon law arbitration. This must be done so the company can notify the Department of Motor Vehicles if they wish to participate in the arbitration case. The notification of the leasing company must be done by certified or registered mail.
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In California, the Lemon Law applies to most (but not all) new vehicles that are purchased or leased within the state’s boundaries. For those who are active-duty members of the Armed Forces, the vehicle is covered even if it was NOT purchased within the state limits.
If a vehicle is still covered under an original warranty from the manufacturer, then it is covered under the law even if it was sold as a used vehicle (having had a previous owner).
Under the Lemon Law in California, the manufacturer may be required to buy back or replace the vehicle if it can’t be fixed despite reasonable attempts to do so and the defect substantially impairs the use or safety of the vehicle – or the value of said vehicle. Also, it is important to note that the defect cannot be caused by unreasonable use of the vehicle, or unauthorized use of said vehicle after it was sold to the current owner.
In California, the defect must appear within the first 18 months of ownership or while the vehicle is being driven the first 18,000 miles. Meanwhile, the manufacturer must be notified of the problem (if this requirement is outlined in the warranty or the owner’s manual of the vehicle) and the vehicle must have been taken in for four or more attempts to fix it, with no resolution. If the vehicle is taken in two or more times with no success and the defect could cause death or significant injury, that also qualifies it as a Lemon in California. Meanwhile, the vehicle also qualifies if it has been out of service for 30 days or more, which do not have to be consecutive. Vehicle owners in California can choose to opt for refund instead of replacement of the lemon vehicle.
Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law process.
Lemons that are bought back by dealers must be labeled as such and have a sticker on the door that says “Lemon” if they are resold.
These states have similar criteria to the Texas Lemon Law, which is overseen by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
The Texas Lemon Law covers cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs and towable recreational vehicles that were purchased new within the state of Texas. It also covers electric vehicles.
In Texas, the Lemon Law criteria involve warranty coverage from the dealer and/or manufacturer and also require the defect to make itself known within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles.
In order to be considered a lemon, the vehicle must have been taken in for four or more repair attempts of the same problem. That problem must significantly impact the safety of the driver and/or passengers and also decrease the value of the vehicle in a marked way.
The vehicle must be out of service for 30 days or more (not necessarily in a row) and a loaner vehicle must not be provided for those periods.
Also, the vehicle manufacturer must be made aware of the defect and given an attempt to address the problem for the vehicle owner.
Once these criteria are met, it is wise to document the various repair attempts and notification of the manufacturer. The complaint can be filed online through the Texas DMV. There is a fee to file.
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A mediation will be scheduled, followed by a hearing if the mediation is unsuccessful. At that time, an examiner hears both sides of the case and then provides a written decision within 60 days of the hearing date.
The examiner is the one to determine the outcome of the case, and if it is found in the vehicle owner’s favor, then three options exist. Those three are repair, repurchase or replacement. The vehicle owner does not have a decision in this, however, it solely comes from the examiner assigned to the case.
It is helpful to work with a successful litigator in these cases, as they have the experience and staff necessary to improve the odds of a successful case. While it is helpful that the cases are handled through the DMV and therefore reduce the timeframe of the process, it is still wise to work with a lemon law lawyer who can guide you when things get confusing.
For those who are facing the stress and struggle of handling a lemon, the ability to work with a lawyer who knows the criteria and rules of the state where you live means less stress and a chance of a better outcome. Legal professionals play an important role in minimizing the confusion and hassle related to a situation where a vehicle is defective. The decision to reach out to a professional makes the difference in many cases, so don’t hesitate to reach out for that assistance.