turning your lemon into lemonade


lemonsG  The Jan. 16, 2007 edition of HALT‘s bimonthly eJournal gives a summary of the legal reform group’s accomplishments in 2006.  Included was the publication of three new Citizens Legal Guides. In addition to one on Small Claims Court, and another on Living Trusts, HALT produced a 7-page online brochure “Lemon Laws: What Do I Do If My Car Is a Lemon? ” (2006, pdf version)  It’s a great place to go for an introduction to the laws that protect you when you’ve purchased a new vehicle with defects that prove to be unrepairable (apparently, about 1% of all new cars). The guide can “help you determine if your car is a lemon, tell you what you can do about it, and direct you to resources for additional information.”

The HALT brochure reminds us that “Each state has enacted its own ‘lemon law, which entitles consumers to a replacement vehicle or a refund for a defunct car. These laws are based upon the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and the Uniform Commercial Code.” Generally, you’ll need to know:

  • the criteria your state uses for deciding whether a car is a lemon; towTruckG
  • when and how consumers must give notice to the manufacturer; and
  • the remedies you have as a consumer if the manufacturer is unable to repair the vehicle within a set number of attempts.

If you aren’t able to reach an agreement with your auto dealership, the next step is arbitration.  HALT briefly explains the process and says “Hiring a lawyer is not necessary for the arbitration as long as you are organized and prepared.”  If you are unable to resolve the dispute with the manufacturer through arbitration, “you can file a claim in civil court.  Although it isn’t required, you may feel more comfortable hiring a lawyer before going to court.”  If so, HALT recommends finding a firm that specializes in lemon law disputes and sets out questions to ask to help determine if a firm is likely to represent you well.  The last page of the brochure has many good sources with additional information on lemon laws.  The guide concludes with good advice:

lemonadeG  “Regardless of how you end up taking action, careful preparation and patience will increase your chances of making a successful claim under your state’s lemon laws. These laws are on your side to help, but you’ll need to be organized and follow the procedures required by your state.”

State Laws:  Your rights will depend on the laws of the particular state where you live or where you bought the car.  One place to look is Lemon Law America, which has links to each state’s lemon law, as well as contact information for “affiliated” lawyers around the country who are experienced with lemon law claims.

Other Recources: You can find more Lemon Law information, and more links to helpful resources at Nolo.com, in the article “Your Rights If Your Car Is a Lemon.”  

 ReturnToSender Consumers (especially anyone wanting to act without a lawyer) and consumer advocates should also consider purchasing ($16) Return to Sender: Getting A Refund or Replacement for Your Lemon Car, by Nancy Barron, which the National Consumer Law Center says “provides practical advice on how consumers can successfully enforce this right through their state lemon law, either on their own or with the help of a lawyer.”  

More generally, the Federal Trade Commission has compiled a lot of online materials for consumers relating to buying (and financing) a new or used car.

  • update (Feb. 12, 2007): See Mary Whisner’s fuller treatment of information about buying vehicles in her shlep post Getting Wheels (Feb. 11, 2007)

1 Comment

  1. r'and

    May 20, 2007 @ 11:23 pm


    What happens if your car deal is a lemon? And many, perhaps most are! At least try not to repeat the same mistakes more than once or twice.


    And, while more efficient vehicles alone will not reduce air pollution, global warming, or inflated gasoline prices, it’s never too late nor too often to tell the auto industry to make cleaner-air, more fuel efficient vehicles, so that your conservation efforts get more mileage.


    Cheers to a greener, saner future


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