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Imagine that you’ve purchased a brand new car, but something about it just isn’t right. Whether the steering or breaks don’t work, or there’s a botched paint job or awful interior smell, you feel like you’ve purchased a lemon.

Fortunately for you, lemon law has your back.

One of the government’s most important jobs is protecting against consumer fraud through warranty laws and lemon law. To protect consumers from defective vehicles, states have enacted variations of lemon laws. These laws provide car buyers with the right to get a refund or replacement vehicle if the car they originally purchased has serious mechanical problems or defects.

But just because you think a car you purchased is a lemon doesn’t mean the state will necessarily agree with you. Whether you’re curious about car, truck, or RV lemon law, the following information should answer any questions you have and help you decide how to go forward.

What qualifies as a lemon?

In most states, a vehicle must have a “substantial defect” covered by the warranty within a certain time of being purchased. Typically, it must continue to exhibit that defect after a “reasonable number” of attempts at repairs in order to be considered a lemon. However, the specifics of what exactly is considered substantial or reasonable varies from one state to another. To find out for sure how to qualify your car, you need to find out what the laws are in your state.

Substantial defect

Whatever state you’re in, a substantial defect is a problem not caused by the car’s purchaser which impairs its use, safety, or value. In the majority of states, the defect has to be covered under the warranty given by the manufacturer or dealer. Also in most states, this defect must be severe enough to affect a critical function or significant expectation of the car.

For example, something that would almost always be considered a substantial defect might be faulty steering or brakes. This is because, besides impairing the car’s usability, having faulty brakes or steering makes a car highly unsafe.

Something minor, like a loose hinge, may not qualify as a substantial defect. However, an issue that dramatically alters a car’s value, such as a bad paint job, will often be considered a qualifying defect.

Again, the line between minor and substantial defects can vary from state to state. It’s a good idea to consult a good lawyer to find out for sure how to proceed with your own car.

Reasonable number of repairs

If the car you’ve just purchased seems to have a substantial defect as described above, the law then gives your car’s dealer and/or manufacturer a reasonable number of attempts to remedy the problem and fix the vehicle. This is a necessary progression that must occur before a car can be legally deemed a lemon.

In the majority of cases and in most states, a total of four repair attempts is considered to be reasonable. However, if the problem is a very serious defect that compromises the car’s safety, even one attempt at repairs may be all that’s allowed before the car is considered a lemon. Additionally, most states have provisional rules that say that a car may be declared a lemon if it sits inside a repair shop for a certain number of days out of the year.

Protection for used cars

So far the information we’ve covered applies almost exclusively to new car sales and leases. However, some states have a lemon law that applies to used cars as well. In some states, vehicles purchased that have logged a certain mileage are covered under lemon law. In others, only cars that have been resold once qualify. And in other states, this protection is only offered if the car would still have been covered under its original warranty before being resold.

You will need to investigate the laws in your own state to find out for sure what you can expect. Thanks to lemon law help, you can rest easy as a car buyer.

Disclaimer: This information is not legal advice and should not be used to replace direct counsel from a qualified lawyer.