There are a variety of consumer protection laws in place to ensure that Americans aren't exposed scams, harmful defects, and the like when they purchase goods. When it comes to cars, consumers are protected by "lemon laws," or legislation designed to provide a means of recourse should you discover that your car is defective.
All 50 states have lemon laws on the books pertaining to new cars, and they typically allow consumers the opportunity to have the defect addressed by the manufacturer, or if this isn't possible, to receive a new car or a refund. Rules vary from one state to the next, howver, and only a handful of states have lemon laws in place for used car purchases. If you fear you may have bought a lemon, here are a few things you should know about lemon laws.
How Do Lemon Laws Differ?
While every state has lemon laws to protect consumers when buying new cars, they can vary in several ways. For one thing, there is some flexibility in what constitutes a lemon. It typically includes a "substantial defect" covered under warranty, and it may require continuing problems, even after a "reasonable number" of attempts to repair it. You can see that this leaves a lot of gray area, though, and the language can differ from state to state.
The particulars of lemon laws may also differ in the amount of time consumers have to take advantage of lemon laws, whether usage plays a role, how many times a manufacturer must be allowed to attempt repairs, the severity of the defect (whether it impacts safety, use, value, etc.), the types of vehicles covered under lemon laws (from trucks, to motorcycles, to RVs), and so on. It's important that you fully understand lemon laws in your state to find out if your vehicle qualifies.
Lemon Laws for Used Cars
Currently, only six states have lemon laws in place to account for used vehicles, including:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
There are an additional seven states that simply set legal minimum standards for the sale of used vehicles, including:
- New Mexico
Finally, there are a number of states that have laws pertaining to the use of disclaimers for used cars and other consumer goods, insomuch as disclaimers are limited or outright prohibited. These states include:
- West Virginia
- District of Columbia
Before buying a new or used car, it's in your best interest to learn about the lemon laws in your state, or in the state of purchase. Understanding lemon laws gives you the best opportunity to mitigate risks and make wise purchasing decisions.