Lemon laws: What to do if you’ve been sold a defective car

It’s estimated there are 150,000 “lemons” purchased annually
Getting car problems fixed can be a major headache. Caresse Jackman provides tips if you're stuck with a "lemon."
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 2:04 PM CDT
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(InvestigateTV) — Nolo, a popular legal website, estimates that 1% of all vehicles sold in the U.S. are “lemons,” or vehicles with substantial defects that impact its value, safety, or usability.

The federal government and all 50 states have laws that protect consumers from “lemons” and while they vary, most require the manufacturer or warranty provider to fix or replace them.

The federal lemon law, known as the Magnuson Moss Warranty-Federal Trade Commission Improvements Act, provides consumer protections against warrantied products with recurring or unfixable problems.

Those who suspect they may have a “lemon” car should seek recourse, per their warranty. If the problem is not solved or continues to occur, consumers may then seek refund or replacement, according to Lemon Law.

The BBB has a free dispute resolution service for consumers with lemons, but some opt for private attorneys.

Consumer attorney Bob Silverman said legal fees can often be recouped during the settlement process.

“Most lemon laws, if not all of them have fee shifting. That means if the lawyer has experience and they take your case, they should take it for free,” Silverman explained. “Not free to the extent that the lawyer doesn’t get paid, but the lawyer gets paid by the car manufacturer once we beat the car manufacturer and require them to settle.’

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a guide for those seeking more information about lemon laws.