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Is Your Vehicle a Lemon? 5 Simple Questions and What To Do Next

Mar 9, 2022

Most people can tell you that a “lemon” is a dud, flop, bust, failure, reject, washout. But when it comes to lemon law, the term “lemon” has a specific legal meaning, which is different in each state.

Lemon laws are consumer protection laws designed to protect buyers of vehicles that have problems within the first months or miles of ownership. A “lemon” vehicle is strictly defined in the lemon laws of each state, and if you think you have a lemon, you should speak to an attorney about the specific requirements of the lemon laws in your state.

Like most laws, lemon laws are technical and wordy. They can be difficult to understand which leaves people confused about their rights, especially when each state has slightly different rules. These 5 simple questions focus on the crucial elements of lemon law to help you determine whether or not your vehicle is a lemon. If it is, you may be entitled to compensation, a refund of your purchase price, or a replacement vehicle.

1. Did you buy or lease your vehicle recently?

Lemon laws are generally limited to recently purchased or leased vehicles, and some only apply to new vehicles. (However, there are other consumer protection laws that may apply to older problem vehicles.) Most states limit how old the vehicle can be by reference to the number of months since it was purchased or the number of miles it has been driven.

For example, Pennsylvania lemon laws apply to vehicles within one year or 12,000 miles of the original purchase, while New Jersey and Florida have a longer lemon law period of 24 months, or 24,000 miles in New Jersey only. West Virginia lemon laws take a different approach stating that they are applicable within the first year or the express warranty period.

If your vehicle is within the time, mileage, or other limits in your state, you may be entitled to compensation under your state lemon laws. If you think your vehicle is outside the limits for your state, first, double check this with an experienced lemon law attorney. Lemon laws are technical and can be misunderstood, and laws change. Second, even if your vehicle is older, you may still have protection under other consumer protection laws.

2. Is your problem vehicle used for personal or business purposes?

Lemon laws were put in place to protect consumers not businesses. (Businesses may have other legal options outside lemon law.) If your vehicle is used for your business or is registered as a commercial vehicle, then it is likely not protected by your state lemon laws. Most states define this as being used for “personal, family, or household” purposes. This does not mean that your car or truck is not covered just because you use it to drive to work. However, it does mean that lemon laws will probably not cover a truck that you bought solely for your landscaping business.

Some people use their vehicles for lots of different purposes. If you are not sure how to answer this question, then you should get the advice of a lemon law attorney to find out if your vehicle is considered a lemon in your state. If it is not, you may still have options under other federal and state laws.

3. Are the problems with your vehicle minor or significant and/or covered by the vehicle warranty?

Any problem with a newly purchased vehicle is a disappointment but not every problem is covered by lemon laws. A vehicle is often your biggest purchase other than a house, and you expect perfection for at least a little while, just like the guy in the commercial, not repeated trips back to the dealership with problems. Lemon laws will unfortunately not cover every little problem that you have with your vehicle. If you are only experiencing very, very minor issues, it may not technically be a lemon. However, lemon laws will cover most problems that merit the time and effort of repeated trips back to the dealer. These problems are often technically defined in state lemon laws as defects that “substantially impair the use, value, or safety” of the vehicle. Some states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, also specifically include defects that are covered by the vehicle’s warranty.

If you are repeatedly bringing your newly purchased vehicle in for repair, there is a good chance it has defects that are covered by lemon law. An experienced lemon law attorney will have seen all kinds of problems, complaints, and frustrations, and should be able to advise you whether you have a lemon or not.

4. Has the dealer had reasonable attempts to repair the vehicle?

All lemon laws give the dealer or manufacturer a chance to repair problems with the vehicle. If you have not allowed your dealer reasonable attempts to repair the problems, then your vehicle cannot be called a lemon within the meaning of state law. Many states allow 3 failed repair attempts before technically calling a vehicle a lemon. Some states, including New Jersey, Ohio, and West Virginia will reduce this to 1 attempt if the defect is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury. You should check what the limits are in your state.

If you have not allowed multiple repair attempts, your vehicle may still be a lemon in your state. Read the next question before giving up!

5. Has your vehicle been out of service for a long time because of a defect?

Sometimes, you don’t get the chance to bring your failing car or truck back to the dealership for a second or third repair. Perhaps the vehicle dies completely, or the dealer keeps it sitting on the lot without repair for days, weeks, or months. In those situations, you may still be protected by lemon laws even though the dealer has not been given the minimum number of repair attempts. Typically, state lemon laws call a car a lemon if it has been out of service for a certain number of days regardless of the number of repair attempts.

This period usually counts the cumulative number of days that the car has been out of service. This means that if a car is at the dealer for 10 days on the first repair attempt and 20 days on the second repair attempt, the car has been out of service for a cumulative 30 days, even though the days were interrupted. 30 days is a common maximum out of service period in lemon laws, as in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, and West Virginia, but it varies by state, and is as low as 20 days in New Jersey.

If you have gotten to the end of these questions and you think your vehicle is a lemon, or you are still unsure, we can help. Our experienced lemon law attorneys at Timothy Abeel & Associates are ready to review your case at no cost to you. We offer free, no obligation consultations, and, if you do have a lemon, we can help you get compensation, a replacement vehicle, or a full refund, and make the manufacturers pay our fees. OK, so technically, lemon laws make the manufacturer pay our fees but that’s for us to handle. You never have to worry about how our fees are paid because WE WILL NEVER CHARGE YOU ANY FEES. Contact us today to find out more.

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