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Avoid a Sour Experience: Car Buyer’s Guide to Lemon Laws

Have you, or someone you know, ever owned a car that was just … bad? Brand new, it may suddenly refuse to start, or the transmission

Lemon laws protect consumers from vehicles that come with manufacturer’s defects, but the laws can vary greatly from state-to-state.

fails. Or it may chronically leak fluids, excessively wear down tires or constantly generate wind or road noise no matter what you do. These are signs that the car may be what manufacturers call a lemon -- a new car with a substantial defect that is not fixable even after a reasonable number of repair attempts. These cars cause undue burden on the consumer when not identified and recalled, and can even be dangerous to drive if not quickly identified.

Most states entertain what are called lemon laws, in which buyers are entitled to a form of compensation if their cars are out of service for an extended number of days due to failure, or serviced at length for the same problem. Lemon laws can vary by state and type of repair, but all aim to protect consumers from what are essentially defective consumer products. A big issue with lemon laws however is that the burden of proof is on the owner to prove that the car qualifies for replacement or a refund.

If you fear that you may be the owner of a lemon, you should first contact an attorney like Hupy and Abraham that has experience identifying defective consumer products and vehicles.

Whatever state the car was purchased in determines the law. For example in Wisconsin, lemon laws cover new cars, trucks, motor homes and motorcycles. In Illinois and Iowa, laws are slightly different. Lemon law in Illinois does not cover motorcycles. And in Iowa one has two years to file a claim on a new vehicle while Wisconsin allows only one year. Click on the state where your vehicle was purchased to see more state-to-state requirements.

Remember, buyer beware, as the burden of proof is yours. So to avoid purchasing a lemon:

  • Research a vehicle before purchase.
  • Look for consumer complaints and comments.
  • Buy from a reputable dealer.
  • Always test drive before purchase, being diligent for strange noise or handling. 

If you think that you have already acquired a lemon, take these steps:

  • Learn the lemon laws for your state by clicking one of the state links above. Check your local DMV website for states outside of WI, IL or IA. 
  • Collect all records on your car, such as purchase contracts, service orders and invoices/receipts.
  • Obtain any and all manufacturer’s technical service bulletins on your vehicle from your car dealership.
  • Keep track of and record how long and how often your vehicle is in for repairs with dates, times in and times out.
Time is critical when it comes to reporting a lemon to the manufacturer. So if you feel that you have purchased a lemon, collect all of the information above, and prepare to consult an attorney. However, if you have been injured due to a manufacturer’s defect on your new vehicle, contact Hupy and Abraham right away. You can start a live chat with us now at Hupy.com, or call us at 800-800-5678 for a free and confidential consultation.