Lemon Law

Lemon laws are American state laws that provide a remedy for purchasers of cars and other consumer goods in order to compensate for products that repeatedly fail to meet standards of quality and performance.


Lemon law is statutes adopted in some states to make it easier for a buyer of a new vehicle to sue for damages or replacement if the dealer or manufacturer cannot make it run properly after a reasonable number of attempts to fix the car. In most cases the term lemon law is used to refer to vehicle purchases and a “lemon” refers to the car in question. There are various lemon laws in place and they can vary for each state. On a federal level the main lemon law is called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

The federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and state lemon laws are created to protect consumers when they purchase a car. While these laws most often apply to new vehicles, some also cover used cars if the purchasers were given express written warranties on them by the dealer or seller.

In general, lemon laws cover everything from fraud (previously wrecked or undisclosed vehicles, flooded vehicles, stolen vehicles), to items with a “history of not working” that the manufacturer sells anyway. Your state may also have a lemon law that sets specific requirements for when a car may be considered a lemon. These laws determine how many repairs the vehicle has to undergo in a specified period of time in order to be considered a lemon vehicle.

Although laws vary greatly by state, one general requirement is that a product must be purchased with a warranty in order to be eligible for protection under lemon laws. If the vehicle is purchased “as-is,” this is usually an express agreement between the buyer and the seller that the buyer assumes the risk of any defects in the product. In this case, the buyer assumes the risk of any defects in the product and loses the right to seek recovery for those losses from the seller or manufacturer.

You must allow the dealer or manufacturer to make a “reasonable” number of attempts to fix a substantial problem before your car is considered to be a lemon. Usually, you must meet one of the following standards to be protected under your state’s lemon law:

  • If a part or system under warranty must not be working, and it must be significant enough to substantially reduce the vehicle’s use, value, or safety (for example, involving brakes or steering), it must remain unfixed after one repair attempt.
  • If the defect is not a serious safety defect, it must remain unfixed after three or four repair attempts (the number varies by state).
  • If the vehicle is in the workshop a certain number of days (usually 30 days in a one-year period) to fix one or more substantial warranty defects, it may fit the definition of a lemon.

If you believe you have purchased a lemon you can contact an attorney with experience dealing with lemons and manufacturers who can help you. An attorney in a lemon law case can make an initial determination about whether a particular purchase is covered under the statute. If coverage exists, the attorney can contact the seller or manufacturer and try to resolve the issue through negotiation. In the event a settlement can’t be reached, the attorney can then file a civil lawsuit on behalf of the client.

Thomas Elliott

Education: Brooklyn Law School, Brooklyn, New York. Pace University, White Plains, New York.
Professional Associations and Memberships: American Bar Association, New York State Bar, The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Brooklyn Bar Association, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).

Rate author
Cases legal