Lemon Laws help protect you when you buy a new car or truck (and sometimes other vehicles, depending on your state's laws). Lemon Laws allow you to return a defective vehicle to the manufacturer in certain circumstances. Note that specifics of Lemon Laws vary from state to state, so be sure to find out what your state says about them. It's often difficult to get the manufacturer to accept the return, and the situation can result in arbitration.

Is my car a lemon?

If your car has a serious defect that makes it difficult to operate or has a negative impact on its safety or value, it may be a lemon. There are certain criteria that will help define whether or not your car is a lemon. If the following is true, then you probably have a lemon:

  • The defect is covered by the manufacturer's warranty
  • You've reported the defect to the manufacturer, and
  • You have given the manufacturer or the dealer several attempts to repair the defect but it is still a problem

If you think you have a lemon

If you think your car might be a lemon, it's important to keep a thorough and accurate log of all attempts to fix the problem. Protect yourself with these steps:

  1. Describe the defect in exactly the same way on each visit to the dealer, and be sure the dealer records the description of the defect in the same way each time.
  2. Write everything down: dates, times, whom you talked to and when, and the odometer reading each time you take your car in.
  3. Record the date and time you pick your car up after each repair attempt.
  4. Keep copies of all repair orders and invoices. If the dealer won't give them to you, make a note of that.

If you have taken reasonable steps to fix the problem and it has still not been resolved, you can seek arbitration if any of the following applies:

  • The specific problem is covered by the manufacturer's warranty
  • You notified the dealer in an attempt to resolve the problem
  • You told the manufacturer about the problem
  • The problem has a negative impact on the use, safety, or value of the vehicle
  • The problem has not been repaired after repeated attempts

Used cars, leased cars, RVs, and motorcycles may also be covered by lemon laws, but it varies from state to state. An experienced attorney in your state can help you with lemon law arbitration.

Additional resources:

Autopedia: State-by-State Lemon Law Summaries

Lemon Law America (general resource)