Lemon Law

Updated March 13, 2023
7 min read

Buying a new vehicle is usually an exciting experience. You might be able to easily find the perfect car for a reasonable price. However, you can just as easily become a victim of car fraud. The good news, however, is that you can protect yourself with legal support based on the lemon act law. Lemon law provides a remedy for people who have purchased cars that have failed to meet the required standards of quality and performance.

What Is the Lemon Law?

Lemon laws protect consumers from defective vehicles. The primary purpose of lemon law is to prevent potential auto fraud and make sure that car manufacturers adhere to quality standards. The lemon law definition is also used to ensure the safety of consumers based on the manufacturer’s written warranty when purchasing a vehicle.

Initially, the term “lemon” was used to describe a product of substandard quality or something worthless. Later, it became popular to call worthless used cars lemons. 

Today’s lemon laws that protect consumers from defective vehicles are typically enforced at the state level. However, where the state does not cover an issue, federal law may apply. The lemon laws cover defects and allow car owners to apply for arbitration hearings to resolve the arguments with warranty repairs.

Why Is There a Lemon Law?

For consumers who have vehicles purchased under the assumption that they will perform as expected, lemon laws were created to cover defects that cannot be repaired in a timely manner. Buying a new car requires careful attention to detail and reading the fine print to avoid scams and ensure that certain consumer protections are in place against fraud. This is why all 50 states in the United States have lemon laws.

How Does the Lemon Law Work?

Depending upon the state, a vehicle must be out of service for a set number of days or sent in to fix the same problem a reasonable number of times within a specific period of time. The reasonable number of times also varies across the states. 

Detected defects must be reported to the manufacturer or an authorized dealer during the covered period. After a vehicle is officially deemed a lemon by meeting car lemon law requirements, the owner may either have the vehicle replaced or request compensation from the manufacturer or a full refund from the authorized dealer. The amount a person receives will also depend on the mileage of the vehicle.

What does lemon law cover?

The lemon law applies to faulty vehicles that are still covered under warranty. These include most classes of new motor vehicles, including motor homes. 

Lemon law claim categories

Lemon law has four main categories that a vehicle owner can prove at an arbitration hearing, including:

  1. Unrepaired Nonconformity — The manufacturer was unable to repair the defect three or more times through an authorized repair facility. The number of times an attempt must be made to repair a defect will depend on state law. The owner must also have proof that the manufacturer either did not respond or did not reach a resolution offering a repurchase or a replacement vehicle.
  2. Unrepaired Serious Safety Defect — The vehicle has a serious defect or life-threatening malfunction that impedes its safety and functionality, and this defect continues to exist. The manufacturer has also failed to reach a resolution after unsuccessful repair attempts.
  3. Multiple Serious Safety Defects — There are two or more serious safety defects that are covered by the manufacturer's warranty.
  4. Days out of Service — A total of 30 or more accumulated days (the number of days may vary in each state) from a reasonable number of attempts to diagnose or repair the nonconformities.

Are Used Motor Vehicles Covered?

Used motor vehicles are covered by lemon laws only if the first repair took place within the manufacturer's express warranty and other eligibility requirements have been met, or if the defect was noticed and reported to the authorized dealer while under warranty. They may also be covered under current state law, so the requirements may vary.

How Do I Know If My Vehicle Is a Lemon?

There are specific requirements for defining a vehicle as a lemon. In general, if a vehicle has a substantial defect that is covered by the warranty within the covered period of time and the defect is still not fixed after a number of repair attempts, the car can be called a lemon.

What Qualifies as a Substantial Defect?

If your new car has issues, you may wonder what qualifies as a substantial defect. According to lemon laws, a substantial defect is one that impairs the use, value, and safety of a motor vehicle. Another requirement is that the defect is the fault of the manufacturer and not from a consumer’s abuse or neglect. 

The following  are some of the most common substantial defects that can cause a car to be considered a lemon:

  • Serious braking defects

  • Faulty speedometer

  • Unrepairable steering issues

  • Wheels with serious defects; and

  • Defective car locks.

Some defects, such as electrical problems, may not define a car as a lemon. However, they may still be qualified as “substantial,” so it may be helpful to contact a lemon law lawyer who can help decide whether your vehicle meets lemon law qualifications.

How to Build a Lemon Law Case

To build a lemon law case successfully, first of all, you need a throughout Bill of Sale protecting buyer's rights. You can use Bill of sale template to fill out the required details and download your ready-to-go Bill of Sale. Having it in your hands will protect you from potential threats in the future.

The following steps should be followed to build a solid lemon law case for the chance to receive compensation for a lemon vehicle:

  1. Evaluate whether the vehicle can be called a “lemon” according to the lemon law requirements.

  2. Send a demand for final repair to the manufacturer (if you have not done so already).

  3. Gather all documents, repair reports, and records and organize them to present as evidence.

  4. Submit a completed request for arbitration.

  5. Consider contacting and hiring an experienced lemon law attorney. 


Lemon laws protect consumers in situations when vehicles have substantial defects that may be dangerous for a driver’s safety or, at minimum, affect the owner’s ability to use the vehicle for its intended purposes. If you believe that your vehicle is a lemon according to the requirements and you have exhausted the reasonable number of repair attempts, you may want to request arbitration. Qualifying a vehicle under lemon laws can be a complicated and time-consuming process. Thus, consider hiring a lemon law attorney who can help with your case.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I find the right lemon law attorney?

Hiring the right lawyer can be one of the most significant steps in the process. When looking for a perfect match, make sure the lawyer: 

  • Has experience handling similar lemon law cases; and 
  • Has a history of successful cases.
What can I expect if I win my lemon law case?

When you win your case, you may receive reasonable compensation, a full refund, or a new vehicle.

What if my car does not qualify under all of the general guidelines?

You may still receive compensation if the value of your vehicle is diminished due to its irreparable defects. Consult with a lemon law attorney for more information.

Must I be the original owner to request arbitration?

No, you do not have to be the original owner of a vehicle to request arbitration. A later owner can also request arbitration if the purchase corresponds to the criteria covered by the state’s lemon laws.