The short answer is no, lemon laws aren’t the same in every state. If you think you might have a lemon, here are some stipulations you may run into.

Lemon Laws Vary by State

There’s no federal lemon law, so your home state’s regulations on lemon laws vary from others. However, we can tell you that lemon laws are typically only for recently purchased new cars, and you can only claim lemon within a certain time frame – usually within one to two years after the purchase.

Lemon laws are there to protect consumers from faulty vehicles, and usually, a refund or replacement vehicle is given to the consumer that was unfortunate enough to get a lemon.

For a car to be deemed a lemon, most states require:

  1. A defect was not fixed after a reasonable amount of time, or in the shop for a certain amount of hours attempting to fix that defect.
  2. The defect was found and unable to be repaired within one to two years after purchase, and the vehicle has around 12,000 to 24,000 miles (depending on the state).
  3. The defect wasn’t caused by abuse or mishandling, or lack of regular maintenance.
  4. The defect is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
  5. The defect impacts the car’s value and/or safety.

Are Lemon Laws the Same In Every State?Like we said, most lemon laws only apply to new vehicles. There are only six states that have used lemon laws:

  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Hawaii
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota

Used lemon law qualifications are similar to new car lemon laws. To qualify, the faulty vehicle must show the defect within a certain amount of miles from purchase, and/or that the car was still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, and you have proof that repairs were attempted.

How to Brand a Car as Lemon

To officially label a vehicle as a lemon, the defect must be “substantial.” Minor defects such as loose radio knobs or broken door handles don’t typically qualify. A more serious, qualifying defect is usually defined as faulty brakes, steering, major engine issues, or even defective paint jobs, according to the legal site

For your vehicle to be covered under your state’s lemon law, you must keep documentation such as correspondence between you and the manufacturer, work orders, and proof of mileage and time when the repairs were attempted. Without this documentation, you’re not likely to be protected under a lemon law, since you can't prove that repairs were attempted unsuccessfully.

According to, once your vehicle meets the qualifications for a lemon, you may have the right to get a refund for the purchase. Some manufacturers are likely to offer you a lemon law arbitration, which usually involves a replacement car.

Once a vehicle has been deemed a lemon, it’s noted on its title. This is to inform any future buyers that the car has a serious defect that has had multiple repair attempts. Typically, lemon cars have a low resale value.

Need Another Vehicle?

If your vehicle isn’t likely to be covered under lemon laws, or it’s a used vehicle and you can’t get any help, it may be time to get into a more reliable car. If you shop with a franchised dealership, you’re not as likely to run into branded title vehicles. This means you're avoiding cars that are branded as a lemon, salvage, flood, or fleet.

Additionally, if you want to save on some cash, but don’t want to skimp on quality, then a certified pre-owned car may be for you. These cars are typically only a few years old, come with a warranty, and are often just coming off lease, so they may offer some peace of mind when it comes to repairs and overall reliability.

If you’re in need of another vehicle, but not sure what dealership is right for you, then let us be your guide at Auto Credit Express! We’ve created a nationwide network of special finance dealers that assist borrowers with unique credit situations, including bad credit, no credit, and even bankruptcy. To get matched to a dealership in your local area, complete our free, quick, auto loan request form and we’ll get right to work!