How Does the Lemon Law Work for Cars?

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Protecting Yourself From Lemons

Buying a new car that keeps having the same problem over and over would leave a sour taste in anyone’s mouth. That’s the sign that you may have bought a lemon.

Lemons are defined under the law as cars that don’t live up to their warranty claims of being defect-free and reliable for daily transportation. According to the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and the Uniform Commercial Code in common law, buyers of such products have recourse to the manufacturer to have the car fixed, get a replacement, or get their money back. All 50 states also have laws that extend protections for owners and make them more specific. Those protections vary and are worth understanding. To find the law in your state, check out these listings from the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

While the law offers lots of protections for car owners, automakers and dealers don’t necessarily make it easy to avail yourself of them. Both manufacturers and dealerships (and increasingly dealership chains) are giant companies that have lots of experience negotiating and obfuscating to make it hard for you to prove your car is a lemon.

It’s useful to understand that the “Express” written warranty that came with the car isn’t the only warranty that matters. Under common law, every product not sold “as-is” comes with an “Implied Warranty,” which implies that the product will be useful for the purpose for which it’s intended and that it is saleable (in other words that the seller has the legal right to sell it). The implied warranty on a pair of scissors, for example, would assume that they will cut paper, but not necessarily that they will work for banging in nails or punching holes in things – as much as you might occasionally use them for that.

To get the upper hand, here’s a guide with step-by-step instructions on how to file and succeed in a lemon-law claim.