How to Learn How the Lemon Law Works

Four Parts:Deciding if Your Car is a “Lemon”Making a Lemon Law Claim to your DealerResolving a Disputed Lemon Law ClaimTaking Additional Steps Against the Manufacturer

Most people have heard of the “lemon law”, but few know exactly what it is or how it works. If you have bought a new vehicle that is still under warranty, and if you are having trouble getting it repaired completely, the lemon law may apply to you. If you take the right steps, you may be entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund of your purchase.

Part 1
Deciding if Your Car is a “Lemon”

  1. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 1
    Research your state’s lemon law. The term “lemon law” applies generally to a series of individual state laws that protect people who buy cars or some other consumer items. Each state has its own law or laws and its own requirements, but in general they are similar. You will need to check with the Attorney General, Department of Motor Vehicles, or some other state agency for the lemon law or consumer affairs laws in your state. For instance,
    • in California, the lemon law is described on the website of the Attorney General.[1]
    • for Texas, you can find information about the lemon law on the website of the Department of Motor Vehicles.[2]
    • the Massachusetts lemon law is outlined by the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.[3]
  2. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 2
    Determine whether your type of vehicle is covered by your state’s lemon law. In some states, the lemon law includes only new cars, while other states include used cars. For some states, leased vehicles are included. There are also differences about including motorcycles, trailers, all-terrain vehicles, vans, trucks or other motor vehicles. You will need to check your state’s law carefully.
  3. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 3
    Check your car’s mileage. One element of lemon law eligibility is the number of miles that you have driven the car since purchasing it. The range is about from 12,000 miles (19,000 km) up to 24,000 miles. However, there are some states that do not set a mileage limit as a condition.[4]
    • For example, South Carolina allows the first 12,000 to determine whether your car is a "lemon."
    • In New York, you may make a claim within the first 18,000 miles.
    • For Alabama and Georgia, you can drive the car up to 24,000 miles before making your claim.
    • In Delaware, Michigan and Colorado, there is no mileage condition. They set limits based on time only.[5][6][7]
  4. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 4
    Verify the time you have owned your car. In most states, the lemon law applies based on a combination of mileage and age. Some states are more expansive, and some are more restrictive. You need to check your own state’s requirements for both mileage and age.
    • For example, Delaware covers cars for one year from purchase, regardless of mileage.[8]
    • In Illinois, cars are covered by the lemon law for one year or 12,000 miles (19,000 km), whichever comes first.[9]
    • The lemon laws of Florida, Alabama and Georgia cover cars for up to 2 years.[10]
  5. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 5
    Review your car’s repair history. The lemon law applies to cars that need too many repairs in a short time after purchasing. Again, keep in mind that each state has its own regulations, but most states’ lemon laws include some or all of the following elements:[11]
    • You need to have it repaired from two to four times for the same problem while under warranty.
    • You need to have the car repaired at least twice for a warranty problem that could result in death or serious injury (i.e., brakes, gas tank, or some major operating component)
    • The car is out of service for 30 days or more due to warranty repairs.
  6. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 6
    Keep records of each repair attempt. It will be important, if you have to proceed with a lemon law claim, to have proof of your repairs. If you do not have the original repair receipts, you may be able to return to the mechanic and get a copy from the mechanic’s records.
    • The mechanic who performs the repairs on the car does not have to be an official dealer service station. You may use any service station to try to get the car repaired.

Part 2
Making a Lemon Law Claim to your Dealer

  1. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 7
    Notify the dealer where you purchased the car. Whether you initially had your car repaired at the dealer’s service station or elsewhere, when you believe your car meets the standards of a “lemon,” you must notify the dealer directly. Take the car in to the dealer’s service station and inform them of the problem. The dealer has the opportunity, by law, to correct the problem.[12]
  2. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 8
    Allow the dealer a “reasonable” opportunity to correct the problem. Before you proceed to the final stage of the lemon law, you need to allow the dealer to correct the problem. Most states define a “reasonable” opportunity to mean one of two things:[13]
    • at least two, or up to four, attempts to repair the vehicle, OR
    • such repairs that take the car out of usable service for 30 days
  3. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 9
    Provide the dealer with written notice that you believe the vehicle is a lemon. According to most states’ lemon laws, when you reach the point that you believe your car qualifies as a lemon, you need to give the dealer written notice, by certified mail. Include in your notice:[14][15]
    • A statement that you believe your car falls under the lemon law
    • Identification of the car, including its vehicle identification number (VIN)
    • A description of the mechanical problem
    • A list of the dates when you had the car repaired, and the length of each repair effort
  4. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 10
    Select a replacement or refund, if the dealer assents to your lemon law claim. If the dealer has completed the “reasonable” repair efforts, and the car cannot be repaired satisfactorily, the dealer may offer you either a replacement vehicle or a refund. In most states, it is your option to accept the replacement vehicle or the refund.[16][17]
    • If the dealer offers a replacement vehicle, you may be entitled to be reimbursed for transfer of registration fees, any towing or rental costs you incurred, and any sales tax related to the replacement vehicle.
    • If the dealer offers a refund, you may be entitled to the full costs incurred in your purchase, included taxes and registration. Depending on your state law, the dealer may be entitled to reduce the refund by a percentage to account for the time or mileage on the car at the time of the refund. Each state will have its own formula to calculate this reduction.

Part 3
Resolving a Disputed Lemon Law Claim

  1. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 11
    Be prepared to proceed further if you and the dealer do not agree. If you have made your written lemon law demand, the dealer may disagree. The following are some typical points of contention:
    • The dealer may disagree that you are within the time limit of the lemon law.
    • The dealer may believe that the repairs have resolved the problem.
    • You and the dealer may disagree on whether the offered replacement vehicle is acceptably similar to yours.
    • You and the dealer may disagree on calculating an acceptable refund amount.
  2. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 12
    Consult with an attorney. If the matter is going to go beyond the basic level of making a demand, you should consider meeting with an attorney. An attorney can help you review the strength of your claim and can assist in further negotiations with the dealer or manufacturer.
  3. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 13
    Take the matter to an arbitration hearing. Arbitration is a system that is quicker and cheaper than a full trial. You have the opportunity to present your evidence and argument to a neutral party, who will hear from both sides and then make a decision. In many states, the attorney general’s office, secretary of state’s office, or Better Business Bureau will have an arbitration office just to deal with lemon law claims.[18]
  4. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 14
    Sue the manufacturer and dealer in court. If you cannot resolve your dispute directly with the dealer, and if you are not satisfied with the decision that comes from arbitration, you can file a complaint in court against the manufacturer and dealer.
    • You will need to find out if your state requires you to attempt arbitration before you are eligible to file a complaint. If this is the case, and you file a complaint without going to arbitration first, your case will likely be dismissed.
    • If you decide to take the matter to court, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney, if you have not already retained one sooner.

Part 4
Taking Additional Steps Against the Manufacturer

  1. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 15
    File a complaint with your state’s Attorney General. Most states’ Attorney General’s offices will have a number or address to take formal complaints. If your lemon law dispute did not get resolved to your satisfaction, or if you believe you were not treated professionally for any reason, you may wish to file a complaint.
  2. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 16
    Notify the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a nationwide business organization that provides notices and support to consumers. The BBB has an online complaint form accessible here that you may use if your dispute was not resolved properly.
    • After you submit your complaint, the BBB will notify the manufacturer and ask for a response. If the manufacturer provides no response, the BBB will make a second attempt. The BBB will share with you any response they receive, or notice that they received nothing.
  3. Image titled Learn How the Lemon Law Works Step 17
    Contact your state’s Office of Consumer Affairs. This is an agency that exists in many states that records complaints and concerns with businesses. While the Office of Consumer Affairs may not take part in your dispute, they do keep records and can take action if a number of complaints are received against a single business.


  • As with any legal matter, you may wish to hire an attorney of your own to proceed with a lemon law claim.
  • Most state lemon laws refer to the “manufacturer or its authorized dealers.” You will probably be most comfortable dealing directly with the dealer where you purchased the vehicle, but you may wish to send copies of all notices to the corporate office for the manufacturer as well.


  • The information in this article is a compilation of the laws of many different states nationwide and is only meant for general information. There is no single lemon law in the United States. You will need to investigate the laws of your own state for the details that apply to you.

Article Info

Categories: Legal Documents for Driving