Are All Vehicles Covered by Lemon Law?

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Across the country, "lemon laws" exist as a means of protecting consumers from vehicles with serious or ongoing defects. However, when buying a new or used car, you should never assume that the vehicle will be protected by lemon law.

This is because individual states (not the federal government) decide specific lemon law protections—and not all types of vehicles are covered in all states. For example, some states may provide consumer protection only for new cars, whereas others may have laws in place for both new and used vehicles.

Determining Your Car's Protections

If you believe you're dealing with a
lemon, the first step you'll want to take is to research your state's specific laws and regulations. The US Department of Motor Vehicles website is a great resource for researching lemon laws on a state-by-state basis; simply click on your state on the map to get started or use the drop-down box provided.

It is worth noting that some states will vary in their definition of a "vehicle" covered by lemon law. For example, the state of Kentucky provides lemon law protection not just for traditional vehicles (sedans, trucks, SUVs, vans, etc.) but for motorhomes, motorcycles, farm machinery, and much more. In other states, lemon law protection may be limited to vehicles under a certain weight or may exclude off-road vehicles.

And while most states provide at least some level of consumer protection for vehicles that are bought new, not all states offer laws to protect consumers against defects on used cars. Among the states that do have lemon laws applying to used cars, these protections may still extend only to those purchased with a warranty. This means if you bought your used car "as-is," you may be out of luck.

Another important factor in determining whether your vehicle is covered by lemon law is the amount of time that has passed since you purchased it. Again, these requirements can vary greatly from one state to the next, but many states provide lemon law protection for vehicles that meet any of the following criteria:

• A major defect occurs within 12 months of ownership
• Recurring defects have required the vehicle to be in the shop for 30 or more days in a calendar year
• Defects continue to occur even after multiple dealership or manufacturer attempts at repair.

What Are the Next Steps?

If you've taken the time to research your state's lemon laws and are convinced that your vehicle is covered, it's important to take the proper steps to make your claim. For starters, be sure to keep detailed records of each problem you run into with your vehicle; this means keeping all invoices and receipts from your dealership, as well as taking photos of defects whenever possible.

In most cases, you will be required to submit formal notice of your intent to file a lemon claim directly to the vehicle's manufacturer before you take legal action. In some cases, manufacturers will go out of their way to try and reach a settlement with you out of court. However, it's a good idea to have a lawyer who is experienced in lemon law on your side throughout this process. This is especially important if you end up taking the matter further in court.

Hopefully, you'll never be in a situation where you have a vehicle you believe to be a lemon. If you do, however, it's important that you know which protections may apply to you in your state.

Aaron Fhima has a long record of success taking on large defense firms. Aaron focuses on taking an aggressive approach to representing his clients’ interests, and develops creative case strategies designed to win maximum compensation as quickly as possible.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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