Lemons and Lemon Laws

Date posted: 07/16/2012

by Alicia Sparks on
in Buying & Selling

1981 Lemons and Lemon LawsIf you recently purchased a vehicle that keeps having the same problem over and over, despite numerous repair attempts, you might have a lemon on your hands.

And, you might be entitled to a replacement or refund.

What is a Lemon?

Simply put, a lemon is a defective vehicle (usually purchased new) that can’t be repaired or continues to malfunction.

Each state has its own legal definition of a lemon, but generally in order for your vehicle to be a lemon:

  • The vehicle must still be under warranty.
  • You must have taken the vehicle in for repairs for the same problem a certain number of times.
  • The vehicle must have been inoperable for a certain number of days (whether they’re consecutive depends on your state).

What Are Lemon Laws?

A lemon law is designed to protect someone who’s purchased a lemon from getting stuck with an inoperable and possibly dangerous vehicle.

Generally, a lemon law has one of three specific goals:

  • Ultimately repair the lemon.
  • Replace the lemon.
  • Refund the owner.

The process to get repairs, a replacement, or a refund depends on your state’s lemon law, but you can expect to:

  • Contact the manufacturer and discuss the policies on repairs, replacements, and refunds.
  • Contact a lemon law attorney, if the manufacturer won’t take action.
  • Enter into arbitration with the manufacturer.
  • Attend the hearing date with documentation of your warranty, repair attempts, and time spent inoperable.
  • File a lawsuit (if arbitration doesn’t work out). At this point, if you don’t already have a lemon law attorney, it’s time to get one.

Of course, this course of events is based on the worst-case scenario: Your manufacturer not fixing or replacing the vehicle, or agreeing to refund you.

Do Lemon Laws Cover Used Vehicles?


Before buying a used vehicle (especially during a private sell), check on how your state’s lemon laws apply to pre-owned vehicles.

Some states, like New York, have lemon laws for used vehicles purchased from dealerships; other states, like Florida, don’t.

Order a Vehicle History Report

Because it’s rare to find lemon laws that cover used cars purchased during private sales, order a vehicle history report (VHR) for any private purchase you’re considering.

As the name suggests, a vehicle history report tells you everything about a particular vehicle’s history.

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About Alicia Sparks

Alicia Sparks is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for animal rights, mental health advocacy, and civil liberties. She loves yoga, tolerates running, attempts cooking, treats DMB concerts as national holidays, and dreams of the day when Timothy Olyphant and Kevin Spacey battle for her love. Check her out at More articles by Alicia Sparks

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