Lemon laws have been enacted by all states to provide protection for those people who purchase a new vehicle; unfortunately not every state has similar laws for those that buy a used car. If your state is one that does have a used car lemon law what do you have to do to obtain compensation?

When is a car a lemon?

Every state has their unique definition of what constitutes a lemon. The majority of states have specified a the number of times the car can be in for repair of the same defect as well as the number of days the car is unavailable to the owner. The laws also address the issue of time; it can be based on miles driven, the expressed warranty or the time in months. These rules generally apply to a new car buyer; that does not mean that used car buyers have no recourse.

Is there a used car lemon law?

The answer to this is a qualified yes. Some states have a used car lemon law but many don’t. California is a state that has written the lemon laws in such a way that there are certain provisions that provide some protection to used car buyers.  To be granted any protection the buyer must have purchased a used car that is covered by an express written warranty.

This warranty can be one of two things:

  * It can apply for the remainder of the manufacturer’s warranty
  * A separate and unique warranty given by the dealer

In some states that do have a used car lemon law there are also provisions which prohibit deceptive acts when selling the used car. The dealer is obliged by law to provide the buyer with an honest answer to every question asked. If you buy a used car and it turns out that your decision was based on deceptive information you may have a case. Other states go a little further, they require the dealer to disclose certain salient facts about the car; was it a rental, is it a salvage car or demonstrator, etc.

Express written warranties are not something that one would expect to get from a private seller, without this warranty the car is not covered by any lemon laws.

Dealer warranties are not long; they typically are valid for periods from 30 days to three months so if you feel that the used car you purchased meets the definition of a lemon you must take action immediately.

The used car lemon law does not apply to all states. If you purchased a used car from a dealer and the sale was accompanied by an expressed written warranty you may have recourse if the car fails to perform. For further information visit the web site of Krohn & Moss Consumer Law Center.

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