What Is a Lemon Car? Your Guide to Lemons and Lemon Laws

Buying a lemon car is a sour experience.

Lemons, which are vehicles that are defective beyond repair, are a buyer’s worst nightmare. But America has federal and state-level car laws in place to protect consumers and help them get their money back after buying a lemon.

What is a lemon car? How can I tell if my car is a lemon? What laws protect buyers from lemons?

We’ve got the answers to all of your lemon-related questions. Let’s explore.

What Is a Lemon Car?

Lemon cars are defective vehicles. They often have manufacturer problems that are hard to fix. People who purchase lemon vehicles end up paying for repetitive repairs and fixes.

Lemons have operational issues that prevent the vehicle from serving its purpose. Lemon cars are often used vehicles, but they can also be new cars.

A survey of 522 participants found 65% of lemon cars came from dealerships, and 41% of the lemons broke down while on the road.

The study also discovered the most common lemon car issues involved the vehicle’s brakes. Other parts that frequently needed repairs included the:

  • Engine
  • Radiator
  • Car battery
  • Heating and cooling system
  • Carburetor
  • Suspension system
  • Starter

Out of the 522 respondents, 60% of lemon car owners spent over $5,000 in attempts to repair their faulty vehicle.

How Do I Know if I Have a Lemon?

Lemons might look clean and radiant when you first purchase them, but most lemons have problems as quickly as thirty days after you drive it home.

Common signs that your vehicle is a lemon includes frequent odors, bad tires, and faulty electrical wiring.

Your Vehicle Frequently Smells

One of the first signs of a lemon vehicle is foul odors coming from the car. No, we’re not talking about a passenger’s poor hygiene. Lemon cars often have peculiar smells due to their faulty mechanics.

Defective engines or heating and cooling systems may overheat, leading to burning smells. These smoky odors are an early sign that something isn’t right with your new car.

On the other hand, instead of burning odors, you may frequently catch a whiff of something sweet. Your car’s coolant contains ethylene glycol that has a sweet aroma to warn drivers of a problem. Leaking coolant can be due to a damaged or leaking radiator.

The Tires Haven’t Been Changed

Another telltale sign of a lemon is bad tires. Whether you’re purchasing a preowned vehicle from a dealership or directly from the seller, be sure to inspect the tires.

Tires should be replaced every six years. Ignoring the tires or driving with worn down tires can lead to steering and brake issues.

How the previous owner treated their tires demonstrates the type of attention the car received. Preowned vehicles can become lemons due to poor care and negligence.

Before purchasing a used vehicle, inspect the tires to ensure they are all the same brand and size. Many lemons are sold with mismatching tires, which can hinder the car’s performance.

The Windows and Locks Don’t Work

It might not seem like a huge deal if your vehicle’s windows and locks don’t work. However, these problems are often due to faulty wiring.

A bad electrical system can lead to other vehicle problems. Identifying and repairing electrical problems in a vehicle is a time consuming and expensive process.

If you’re checking out a vehicle with faulty windows or locks, ask the owner or dealership to have those problems repaired before you purchase the car. If they refuse, the car is likely a lemon that will continue to cause problems.

What Are Lemon Laws?

If you’ve accidentally purchased a lemon car, don’t panic. Lemon laws help consumers with lemon vehicles.

These laws exist at the federal and state level. State laws vary greatly, but you can learn more here about specific state lemon laws.

Legally, a lemon is considered a vehicle with one or multiple defects that impairs the vehicle’s safety, use, or value. The car cannot be corrected within a reasonable number of attempts. If the vehicle qualifies as a lemon, lemon laws help the buyer receive a refund for their purchase.

State lemon laws may include a time period for when a buyer can claim a vehicle as a lemon. These timeframes can range from a few days after purchase to up to 90 days.

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act takes precedence over any state-level lemon laws. This federal act protects Americans by offering government and legal tools when fighting a lemon law claim.

It enforces that the manufacturer pays for the consumer’s legal fees, including representation. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act also demands the manufacturers pay for any incidental costs a consumer incurs. These costs including towing their lemon car or using a rental vehicle.

The Uniform Commercial Code for Lemons

The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) states that any preowned vehicle must include a warranty stating the car is fit for transportation. However, dealerships in certain states can market the vehicle “as is,” which disclaims the UCC warranty.

The Used Car Rule

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a Used Car Rule that requires dealers who sell more than five vehicles a year to include a Buyer’s Guide in every car available for purchase.

The guide must explain the warranty or state if the vehicle is being sold “as is.” It also must affirm the percentage of repair costs the dealer will cover under the warranty, as well as list defects that commonly occur among used vehicles.

Get Answers to Your Questions

So, what is a lemon car? It’s a defective vehicle that may be unsafe to travel in.

While many people fall victim to purchasing lemon cars, there are both federal and state lemon laws designed to protect buyers.

Are you looking for more answers to your everyday questions? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

Continue browsing our blog for more informational articles. From home gardening to travel tips, we’ve got the answers to all of your questions.

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