Decoding Lemon Law Criteria

Every state has laws designed to help consumers who buy or lease a car with problems. How does lemon law work?

Known as Lemon Laws, these laws can provide compensation through an arbitration process.

A vehicle must have a substantial defect that remains unrepaired after a reasonable number of repair attempts to qualify as a lemon. The specific numbers vary by state.

Defective Parts or Components

If you face an issue with your vehicle, and it requires repairs twice in the first 24 months or 24,000 miles, and the problem remains unresolved, it may qualify as a lemon. It doesn’t have to be within 30 days, and if you use a comparable loaner car, those days do not count. In case the same defect occurs repeatedly or poses a safety hazard, it is best to contact the manufacturer immediately.

The law defines a “substantial defect” as any covered problem that substantially impairs the vehicle’s use or value, like faulty brakes or steering. But the line between major and minor problems, such as loose radio knobs or a bad paint job, isn’t always clear and can vary by state.

Once a substantial defect is identified, the manufacturer is given several attempts to fix it. If a permanent solution cannot be found, your vehicle might be considered a lemon. The precise number of repair attempts required to meet the Lemon laws’ criteria will depend on your state, but a good rule of thumb is three or more. You should also be sure to keep a record of all your repair attempts, including copies of the repair orders and dates of the repairs.

Substantial Defect

car defect

It is estimated that roughly 1% of new cars sold each year are considered “lemons” – meaning they have persistent and severe issues that cannot be fixed. In order to protect consumers from these types of vehicles, most states have implemented laws. If a vehicle meets the specific criteria outlined in state law, the manufacturer of the car is required to offer the owner either a refund or a replacement car.

The criteria vary from state to state, but most focus on the number of days the car spends in the repair shop and the extent to which the problems affect the vehicle’s value or usability. The definition of substantial defect varies from state to state, but it usually includes any problem that interferes with the driver’s safety or substantially impairs the vehicle’s use or value.

This means that problems such as faulty brakes and steering issues qualify, while cosmetic defects like poor paint jobs do not.

Consumers prepared for the arbitration process by bringing documentation of the vehicle’s problems tend to do better than those who arrive at the hearing with little evidence.

This should include receipts for repairs, service schedules, phone records showing how often the car was in the repair shop; a copy of the original sales agreement and any manufacturer ads or brochures touting the vehicle’s quality; and photos of the defective vehicle and its damage.

Reasonable Number of Repairs

The number of repair attempts required before a vehicle is declared a lemon varies by state. Most states also have a provision that allows you to file for arbitration if you cannot resolve your claim with the manufacturer.

This is typically a faster and less complicated process than filing a lawsuit in court. Additionally, having a lemon attorney by your side can increase your chances of getting the compensation you deserve.

The best way to prove that you have purchased a lemon is by keeping track of each visit to the mechanic and the dates on each invoice. This will provide you with a good amount of evidence for your case when it comes to getting your refund or replacement car. You should also record any problems that were not repaired during your vehicle ownership.

Damage or Loss of Use

Buying a new vehicle is always an exciting experience, but what if the car starts having serious problems that are difficult or impossible to fix? While the line between a minor and substantial problem is not clear-cut, most states will allow for a reasonable number of repair attempts before considering a vehicle a lemon.

A vehicle can also be considered a lemon if the problem reduces its value or usability or puts you at risk of harm.

Keeping track of your vehicle’s repairs and maintenance is important, as this will help when it comes time to file a lemon law claim. You should always ensure that your mechanic can complete the repairs and that they do not leave the car undriveable for a significant amount of days.

Lemon Law claims can lead to repurchases, refunds, or compensation for the time the vehicle has been unusable. The process is usually handled by arbitration, which involves an impartial third party evaluating the case and making a decision. Both parties need to abide by the arbitrator’s ruling.

While every Lemon Law case differs, most will be resolved within months rather than years. It is important to consult with an experienced consumer protection attorney if you believe your new or certified pre-owned vehicle may qualify as a lemon under New York state law.


Sim is a highly skilled writer and co-founder of Lifestyle Toppings. With a Bachelor's degree in English literature and years of experience in the field of content creation, Sim has become an expert in crafting engaging and informative articles that resonate with readers.