Lemon laws exist to protect customers when the goods they have purchased come with flaws – but what happens when the bought item isn’t new? Many used-vehicle buyers were faced with a question: Can you lemon law a used car?
Yes, you can apply for a lemon law for a used car as long as it is under warranty. Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Connecticut, Minnesota, and New Jersey have lemon laws, but they can also be recognized on a federal level. However, you must prove that the damage occurred before the purchase to qualify under the lemon law.
Are you interested in finding out more about consumer protection when buying a pre-owned vehicle? If you want to learn in which cases lemon laws can be used (and what’s their alternative), just keep reading.
Table of Contents
Consumer protection laws are clear when the purchase of a new vehicle is in question – each state applies lemon laws if a new car has come with defects and is unsafe for driving. However, with used vehicles, the situation is not that straightforward.
Today, only seven states recognize lemon laws for used vehicles: Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Connecticut, Minnesota, California, and New Jersey. In them, sellers of used cars are obliged by law to provide used-car warranties for buyers.
If you purchased a used vehicle and it shows some defect during the warranty period, you can have a lemon law claim. The seller will be obligated to repair the problem or, if it’s not possible, replace the automobile or provide you with financial compensation.
Each of the states mentioned above has different warranty qualifications and length of the warranty period, based usually on the vehicle’s mileage, age, or cost. Take a look at some examples at the table below:
|Warranty Period Length
|Cars that have passed less than 100,000 miles
|30 days/1,000miles – 90 days/4,000 miles (based on previous mileage)
|15 days/ 500 miles
|Cars that cost more than $3,000
|30 days/1,500miles – 60 days/3,000 miles (based on the price)
|Automobiles that are seven years or older do not qualify
|Cars that have passed less than 75,000 miles
|30days/1,000 miles-60 days/2,500 miles
|Automobiles that are eight years or older do not qualify
Aside from lemon laws, states such as Arizona, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Nevada have additional consumer protection laws that can be of great help when buying a used automobile.
When you notice that something isn’t right with your purchased pre-owned vehicle, you must prove that the defect wasn’t caused after you bought the car. Here are the steps you should take:
- Get car history reports – through a detailed history, you can get information about prior accidents, major problems, and significant repairs. You can use services provided by the AutoCheck and National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.
- Get a detailed mechanic checkup – it will help you obtain information about the source of the problem. Ensure you keep all service records and receipts.
- Send a complaint – if your dealer still does not want to accept responsibility, complain to the department of consumer protection or the attorney general’s office.
- Contact a lemon law attorney – if your case is more serious, an attorney specified in lemon laws can help you through the legal process.
Many lemon law attorneys can provide you with free legal help if you’re not certain if you can have a claim. They will be able to do an evaluation and advise you on what to do next. If you decide to go through a legal process, they can provide you with their service with it as well.
Moreover, keep in mind that all financial obligations concerning the automobile are on the dealer – in full or partly. That means that registration taxes and additional expenses due to faulty vehicles (car tow or renting a car) must be reimbursed (entirely or in some percentage) by a dealer. It is also the case with attorney fees, which is one more reason to contact them.
Just because only a small number of states recognize lemon law for used cars, that does not mean there aren’t some consumer protection protocols recognized on the federal level.
If you live in a state where you can’t apply a lemon law (or when a state’s used-car lemon law can’t be applied for your situation), consider:
- Federal lemon law (Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act) – if the car has been sold under the express written warranty, this law serves as a protection. It can be applied for new or used goods sold for $25 or more, including motor vehicles.
- The Federal Trade Commission’s Used Car Rule – the seller must disclose all important information about the automobiles he sells (if he sells more than five per year). That includes the information about possible defects and warranties (if there are any).
- UCC (The Uniform Commercial Code) – Under UCC, every used-car buyer is entitled to the implied warranty (that an automobile is suitable for transportation), and the car seller can’t disclaim it. However, remember that not all states have adopted this code entirely.
The distinction between an implied and express warranty is very important when it comes to used-car lemon laws. If you want to apply a federal lemon law, for example, you can do it only if you have an express warranty. But what’s the difference?
An implied warranty provides only the basic coverage but is automatically assigned to the sold goods. On the other hand, an express warranty is a warranty whose conditions are clearly stated, either verbally or in writing.
Certified pre-owned vehicles are the best solution for those who don’t want to spend a large amount of their money on buying or leasing a new car. Not only do these automobiles come with lengthy warranties, but they also must meet high standards before being placed for sale.
Even though they have higher prices, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have to deal with a lemon car if you choose this option.
On the other hand, if you’ve found yourself already in an uncomfortable situation with faulty and unsafe newly-purchased used vehicles, know that there are laws, both state and federal, that will protect your customer’s rights.