Lemon Law Vs. Warranty – Know the Difference to Strengthen Your Case

Lemon laws protect consumers from defective new and used cars. To qualify a car as a lemon, it must have serious problems, and the dealer must still repair it within a reasonable time.

Check your owner’s manual or warranty booklet for instructions on reporting problems. It is important to keep the manufacturer informed and maintain a record for use in an arbitration hearing.


The key difference between a warranty and lemon law is that a car manufacturer’s warranty promises to make things right if the vehicle doesn’t meet quality standards. Lemon laws expand this by setting out mandatory arbitration and buy-back provisions for consumers who experience significant problems with their vehicles.

The law also requires that manufacturers allow a reasonable number of repair attempts before the vehicle is considered a lemon. This number varies by state but is generally three or more instances where the problem keeps the vehicle out of service for 30 days or more—remembering that the car must have a major problem, such as a defective engine or transmission. If the problem is simply due to improper or inconsistent maintenance, it may not qualify as a lemon under the law.

Before filing a lawsuit, consumers must use the manufacturer’s informal dispute resolution process, an arbitration board. They can do this themselves or with the help of a lemon law attorney. Whether you file the claim or hire an attorney, it is important to have all your documentation together before filing. You must submit a detailed explanation of the problem, including any documents supporting your claims, such as repair bills and service records. The best lemon law attorney in California can help you submit this information in a way that maximizes your chances of success.

Lemon Law

A state lemon law (or a federal law like the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act) allows you to take legal action against a manufacturer when your car has repeated problems that make it unfit for its intended use. The law usually covers new and used vehicles, but some states and federal laws extend it to other consumer goods that include a written warranty.

To qualify for a lemon lawsuit, your car must meet several requirements. It must be covered by a new car warranty or federal law and have a defect that significantly impairs its value. It must also have been returned to the dealer a reasonable number of times for repair or be out of service for more than 30 cumulative days.

Your attorney can help you determine whether your vehicle meets these criteria and file the appropriate claim. You should keep detailed records and notes of conversations with the dealership and manufacturers. Keeping these records will prove valuable during an arbitration hearing when the arbitrator may question you and others about what happened with your car.

During an arbitration hearing, both the manufacturer and the consumer are entitled to present evidence. An arbitrator will review the evidence and decide what compensation, if any, you deserve. This process is typically faster and less complicated than going to court.


Arbitration is a non-judicial alternative to litigation in which you and the dealer present evidence to an impartial person to decide your lemon law case. This process is available for new and leased vehicles purchased from dealers and used cars sold by private parties, provided they meet the law’s eligibility requirements. Once an arbitrator decides your claim, it becomes binding on both parties. To initiate the process, you must submit a completed “Request for Arbitration” form and pay the applicable fee.

A lemon law attorney can help you get the best possible outcome from this process. The manufacturer may try to sway the arbitration panel toward their side during a mediation meeting, and having an experienced professional on your side is often helpful.

It is also important to keep detailed records. Document conversations with the dealer and manufacturers and include a log of the car’s history, including repair attempts, how long the vehicle was out of commission, and the symptoms you experience, such as a growling sound from under the hood or an odd smell. These records can help support your case and make it easier to prove the manufacturer has attempted to fix the problem before an award is issued.

Many manufacturers include forced arbitration clauses in their contracts which can greatly hinder a consumer’s ability to obtain justice. These clauses are often overlooked and can be difficult to fight. A federal bill has been introduced to abolish these contractual provisions, giving consumers much better options for securing justice in their lemon law claims.


State and federal lemon laws, named after a slang term for a defective car, protect consumers who buy or lease new vehicles with problems. Generally, these laws require the manufacturer to repair the vehicle or give the buyer a refund or replacement. Some states even extend the buyer’s rights beyond express warranties by limiting inherent implied warranties.

Breach of warranty and lemon law claims are based on different principles. The first step in a breach of warranty case is reporting the problem to the dealer. In most cases, the dealer must attempt to repair the vehicle within a reasonable period or one year from the date of purchase. The dealership must record all repairs attempted, and the consumer must maintain copies of all receipts and correspondence.

If the defect is not repaired after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer can be compelled to settle through arbitration. The arbitration panel will examine the evidence and decide what compensation is owed. Having an experienced Lemon Law attorney by your side can significantly increase your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve.

Your Lemon Law attorney will help you determine whether or not your defects meet the requirements of your state’s lemon laws. Unlike most consumer protection statutes, lemon laws specifically mention the need for a reasonable number of repair attempts. It is important to remember that your Lemon Law attorney will not take your case to trial unless it has a high probability of success.

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