Is My Car a Lemon? (And What to Do If It Is)

Is My Car a Lemon? (And What to Do If It Is)Buying a new or used car can be a stressful time for a person. Everyone is afraid of buying a lemon vehicle because it represents one large investment. But if you do find yourself wondering whether your car’s a lemon, it will fit the following description:

For your car to be defined as "a lemon", it must have an irreparable, serious problem that affects its usability, safety, or value. For instance, a car with a faulty AC or broken door handle wouldn’t fall under this description. A lemon car would instead have severe issues to the transmission or similar area.

If you’re still a little confused or have more questions, we’ll dive deeper into this topic in our following sections. Keep reading, and we’ll ensure you have an answer to whether your car’s a lemon or not.

What Happens If My Car Is a Lemon?

People who believe their cars are lemons could have protection under their state’s lemon law. These people should contact a qualified lemon law attorney to discuss their lemon law rights. If you have a case, this attorney will help file a complaint and begin a lawsuit.

After a determined number of repair attempts, lemon laws will protect you by ensuring the manufacturer offers compensation. This specified number will again vary based on the state. If your car does meet these requirements, you’ll get compensated in one of the following ways:

  • The manufacturer repurchases your lemon. This repurchase will be a refund of the money put toward the car. It will not include the use-value before it started having issues.
  • They replace your defective car with a new one.
  • You get offered a cash settlement.

If this case does go to trial, the car’s manufacturer will have to pay all your attorney fees and associated costs as well. The manufacturer will be liable to pay reasonable attorney costs and fees when your car’s deemed a lemon regardless of the outcome.

How Do I Know If My Car Is a Lemon?

Lemon cars are vehicles that seem to have constant issues with one or various of their major systems. As you might imagine, these vehicles can cause their owners a great deal of frustration and stress. But the worst part is that lemons will cost you some serious cash.

The easiest way to tell you’ve got a lemon is whether your car suffers from a reoccurring problem or defect. This issue must affect the car’s usability, safety, or use within a specific period. A vehicle that has received service for the same problem four or more times within its warranty period would be a lemon.

For instance, a car with malfunctioning brakes that can’t be fixed would be considered a lemon. Vehicles with a broken radio or stuck windows wouldn’t. These cars are just vehicles you shouldn’t have bought.

What Qualifies a Car As a Lemon?

The answer to this question will vary depending on your state of residency. You see, what happens to be considered a substantial defect or a fair number of repairs will differ in each state. The length of coverage will also be subject to change based on where you live.

Most people assume there’s a single federal lemon law, but it isn’t the case. Each state will have its own lemon laws, and they can vary drastically from each other. As a result, the exact wording for what qualifies a car as being a lemon will depend on where your vehicle’s registered.

But the good news is that checking these laws isn’t too tricky. You can do a quick google search and figure whether your car is a lemon, based on your state’s lemon laws. We’ll further discuss what a lemon law is in our next section.

What Is a Lemon Law?

Lemon laws were designed to ensure people had options after buying products that didn’t meet performance or quality standards. These laws aren’t just for cars, either as other items will fall under these guidelines.

As you know from our previous sections, there’s a federal lemon law, and each state will have their lemon laws. Reviewing the differences between each state’s version is a simple matter of checking out the Better Business Bureau’s overview.

Lemon Law Requirements

You must understand that lemon laws don’t work in every situation. In most cases, your car’s problems must happen when it’s under warranty. This warranty doesn’t have to be one that comes with a new car. It could also be a more limited one that you get when buying a used car.

Let’s look at what the federal lemon law requires to give you a better handle on this topic:

  • The car’s manufacturer has attempted to fix the same issue “a reasonable number of times” without success. This number is usually three of four, but the court determines it. Or you’ve had several different problems with the vehicle that have made it unusable.
  • The attempted repairs must have happened in the first one or two years of owning the car.
  • These repairs have made your car unusable for at least 30 days. These 30 days don't have to be consecutively.

If your car fits into these requirements, you may have got a lemon your hands. Our next section will help you decide what to do next.

What Do You Do If Your Car Is a Lemon?

People who end up realizing their car is a lemon need to act fast. Federal lemon laws give the manufacturer 3 or 4 attempts to repair the issue within 12 months. Some state laws will even have a shorter amount of time to act.

If the problem isn’t fixed within the correct amount of time, you should file a lemon law complaint. I’d suggest you retain all the paperwork, such as estimates, receipts, and anything else concerning repairs or service.  This action should be done even when you don’t have a lemon car.

These papers will be vital in helping prove that your car’s actually a lemon when dealing with your lemon lawsuit. It can also help establish your repair and service record for legal purposes such as an accident or improving your car’s resale value.

But if you don’t request the repairs during the repair window, none of this will matter. You must ask the manufacturer in writing to fix the issues within your lemon car. It might be a wise move to have an attorney help you with the requests. Their assistance will create a foundation for the subsequent lawsuit when these requests don’t end up fixing the issue.

I’d recommend making these written requests each time you have to bring the car in for repairs. It’ll create a record showing the number of repairs. It will also show that your car’s manufacturer was given notice multiple times about the car’s issues and still didn’t fix it. Getting a signature will help in this regard, as well. It’ll be proof that the manufacturer received your notice and useful during a lemon law lawsuit.

Can a New Car Be a Lemon?

Yes, new cars can be lemons. In fact, any new car with more than one problem could end up being a lemon. This designation won’t be dependent on things like who’s the manufacturer or how much the car costs. Even companies like Toyota, Honda, and Audi have put out cars that have later been deemed lemons.

It doesn’t matter how much research a person might do or how excellent reputation the company has: you’re still at risk of purchasing a lemon when buying a new car.  Sadly, around one percent of new vehicles are confirmed as lemons every year.

This percentage would come out to over 150,000 vehicles per year. Honestly, the figure is a little staggering. But it’s an ongoing problem, and you must be aware of it when going through the car buying process.

Can I Return a Used Car Within Three Days?

This question is another one, which will depend on your state. For instance, California has a law that allows buyers to buy a two-day right-to-return policy with there used cars. This policy isn’t automatic, given you have to pay for it, but it does exist within California.

But this law is a rare exception as you won’t see a similar law in other states. Most of the time, you’ll have to live with the purchase you’ve made. It’s also worth noting that the three day grace period doesn’t even apply to new cars regardless of what people might tell you.

No law or rule requires a manufacturer to take back a car within three days. This myth seems to stem from the idea that there is a cooling-off period for some purchases. However, this cooling-off period doesn’t extend to buying a new or used car.

It’s reserved for buying items from sellers like a door-to-door salesperson. In this case, there might be a law protecting you from making the wrong decision.

How Many Miles Before A Car Is Considered "Used"?

The moment you buy a new car from a manufacturer, that vehicle becomes a used car. It doesn’t matter whether the car has 10 miles when reselling it: the car will still be considered a used car rather than a new one.

It’s why you might see a car being sold with under 1,000 miles at a much-reduced price than the same one at a dealership. This reason alone should be enough to ensure a buyer becomes extra cautious when buying a new car.

Can You Return A Car You Have Financed?

There are ways to cancel a car purchase and return a car that’s been financed. In fact, you might be able to return the financed vehicle and prevent credit damage. It’ll end up depending on the type of loan contract that you’ve signed.

If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing to do is to review your auto contract. It could outline a time frame where you can return the vehicle and cancel the loan agreement. If there’s one, it’ll usually be a three-day window after the initial purchase.

The car should be in good condition when you do return it. A dealership isn’t going to take back a vehicle with excessive damage or mileage. Both these issues would void the return policy and keep you stuck with an unusable car.

You should also prepare yourself to pay interest on the car loan. This interest starts building up the minute you sign your loan agreement. Due to this, a finance company will make you pay an interest payment when canceling the auto loan.

But what happens if your loan agreement doesn’t permit returning the car? I’d suggest notifying the finance company and dealership immediately. Make sure to mention your intention to return the vehicle and cancel the loan.

You should then consider doing a voluntary repossession. Bring the financed car back to the proper dealership. Your dealer will auction it off, and the funds will be put toward paying off the finance company.

What Is Buyers Remorse Law?

A buyer’s remorse law gives buyers the right to return items or cancel contracts for any reason during a window of days after purchase.  Of course, defective products are capable of being returned in almost all situations. Large purchases such as vehicles don’t always fall under this policy.

But if a person buys a product without thinking about the consequences and later regrets it, the buyer’s remorse laws can be a godsend.  These laws would allow a product covered by them to be returned or the contract canceled without paying a fee. However, you must return the product in the given window, or these laws are voided.

The only issue is that these laws don’t usually apply to vehicles. It’s a shame, but you must really think about the consequences of buying a new car. Otherwise, it could set you back a lot of money without any way of getting out of the deal.

What Is the Used Car Rule?

The Used Car Rule, previously called the Used Motor Vehicle Trade Regulation Rule, has been around since 1985. This rule requires a car dealer to put a window sticker, known as a buyer’s guide, on used cars being offered for sale.

This buyer’s guide tells a would-be buyer whether the dealer offers a warranty with purchase. If the dealer does, this buyer’s guide will include the conditions and terms: vehicle systems the warranty covers, coverage’s duration, and percentage of repair costs the dealer will pay.

If a state doesn’t allow selling of used cars “as is” or without included warranties, dealers must display a different type of buyer's guide.

What Is a Lemon Law Buyback?

Lemon law buybacks refer to a vehicle that’s been repurchased by the manufacturer because of specific warranty defects. These defects would have to impair the car’s value, safety, or use. This car would have to been registered in the manufacturer’s name before being sold to a new owner.

If you find a car that’s been branded with a lemon law buyback title, the car was or still is a lemon. There are quite a few times where manufacturers will replace the defective part and resell the lemon car.

But since 1996, some states began demanding manufacturers provide owners with lemon cars the chance to get the full purchase price back. These states also started to issue legislation, which ensured automakers were obliged to put each lemon law buyback car’s status on its title. As a result, the term “lemon law buyback title” was born.

We hope all this info about lemon vehicles gave you a better understanding of your car’s status. If you do have any more questions, feel free to let us know in our comment section. We’ll answer you back as soon as possible.

Share this article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *