Is My Car a Lemon? A Guide to Lemon Laws

Although some might be more reliable than others, every car is subject to most of the same issues. It is impossible to discover all the problems a vehicle might have just by looking at it on the car lot and taking a quick test drive. Sometimes a car is purchased and is thought to be in excellent condition, but after a few days or weeks, the owner notices some defect. In this case, the car is a lemon.

Why is it called a lemon? The term is simply a metaphor involving the fruit. The car is a lemon because it has gone sour. The deal for the car was unlucky, or “sour.” There are many reasons a car might be defective. More often than not, the problem was overlooked and unexpected by both the manufacturer and the dealers. However, on occasion a dealer of pre-owned cars might try to disguise a problem so the customer does not notice it until the warranty has expired.

A loose lug nut or another easily and quickly fixable imperfection does not classify a car as a lemon. The title is only for cars that need excessive or complex repairs. A loose lug nut is usually nothing more than an inconvenience, but faults within the engine, drive axles, brakes, starter or steering system can be costly to fix. Fortunately, states have enacted what are called “lemon laws” to counter the sale of lemon cars. Lemon laws apply to both new and used cars. For a new car, the owner would be refunded or reimbursed from the automobile manufacturer. For a used car, usually the dealer is responsible. It is important to keep all literature, bills and invoices that come with the purchase of a car. You will need them if you discover you have purchased a lemon.

Lemon laws are different in every state. They are often based on the number of miles a car has at the time of purchase and the number of miles it has been driven since. This prevents an individual from wearing a car down for some time or neglecting it and then claiming it was defective upon purchase. Only six states have lemon laws for used cars but many others have similar standards. Some states’ lemon laws are quite comprehensive and protect consumers against defective boats and even out-of-control pets. The laws have been enacted to protect the many and grant them the right to drive the vehicle they paid for with the quality advertised.

A lemon car is one that is purchased with pre-existing problems that were unknown at the time of sale. Lemon laws protect consumers from lemon cars and will reimburse them based on the work that needs to be done. Do not wait to report a problem with your vehicle. Lemon laws extend a maximum of around 90 days, and usually span only 30 or 60.

Lemon laws are handled by state, so in order to be sure your lemon car is covered, consult your state legislation. Some of the following resources should lead you to the applicable information.

State Lemon Laws: Select your state and learn about lemon laws that may benefit you.

Federal Warranty Law: A Federal Trade Commission article on Warranty Law.

Consumer Frauds Bureau: Lemon Law fact sheet.

Lemon Law Info and Sites: Lemon law statutes for all 50 states and Washington DC.

Vehicle Buyback: An article regarding the resale of cars returned as lemons.

Vehicle History Report: Get a VIN check before you purchase a car for extra protection against purchasing a lemon.

C.A.R.S.: An organization aiming to protect consumers from automobile fraud.

Protected Paws: There are lemon laws for pets too that cover veterinary expenses.

Used: There are used car lemon laws in six states:

  • Hawaii: Cars with less than 25,000 miles get 90 days or 5000 miles.
  • New Jersey: Cars with less than 24,000 miles get 90 days or 3000 miles.
  • Massachusetts: Cars with less than 40,000 miles get 90 days of 3750 miles.
  • Minnesota: Cars with less than 36,000 miles get 60 days or 2500 miles.
  • Rhode Island: Cars with less than 36,000 miles get 60 days or 3000 miles.
  • New York: Cars with less than 36,000 miles get 60 days or 4000 miles.

Lemon Laws by State: The official U.S. government resources for lemon laws in all states.

American Veterinary Medical Association: Resources for all twenty states that have pet lemon laws.

Car Lemon: Tips for determining if you have a lemon and how to go about filing a repair order.

Lemon Law America: Lemon law statutes ordered alphabetically by state.

123 Car: Resources for lemon laws, licensing and travel.

This article is a free resource created by Cheap Car Insurance meant to educate and raise awareness concerning lemon laws. Sharing is permissible. Please contact us if you have any questions. Get a car insurance quote in your area.