Do You Need a Manufacturer's Warranty to File a Lemon Law Claim?

Whether you've recently purchased a brand new vehicle or one that was used, it's important to understand your state's lemon law protections and how they may affect you. One of the most common questions consumers have regarding lemon law is whether or not these protections apply to cars that didn't come with a warranty or that are out of warranty.

Know Your State's Laws

Each state is responsible for enacting its own lemon laws, so the specifics regarding which types of vehicles are covered (and under what circumstances) can vary greatly. Finding out more information about your state's lemon laws through the Department of Motor Vehicles is a good place to start. This will help you get a better idea of whether your vehicle might be covered. In many states, a car is covered by lemon law regardless of whether it is new or used—so long as it is still under warranty.

After all, the purpose of a warranty is to acknowledge to consumers that vehicle manufacturers are not perfect, and there are no guarantees that a vehicle (new or used) will operate perfectly 100% of the time. Warranties are meant to provide vehicle buyers with added protections and peace of mind in knowing that if something does go wrong with the vehicle, the manufacturer will take responsibility for the repair.

Of course, vehicle warranties can vary greatly—and not all warranties are offered directly from the manufacturer. For example, a used car may already be out of its manufacturer warranty by the time it is resold; the dealership may thus provide their own extended warranty on the vehicle. In the case of a new vehicle, warranties can range anywhere from a few months to a decade or more. This is why it can be so confusing to determine whether a car with defects is eligible under lemon law, especially if it is no longer under warranty.

When a Warranty May Not Be Required

In some cases, you may still be protected by your state's lemon laws even after your vehicle warranty has expired or you bought a used vehicle "as-is." Often, if a vehicle has had a recurring issue that was previously addressed by the dealership and the problem comes back after the warranty has expired, lemon law protections may kick in. In this type of situation, the manufacturer would either need to make the repair again at no cost to the car owner or provide a refund or replacement of the vehicle itself. In some cases, the vehicle owner may need to provide proof that the issue with the vehicle has recurred at least three or four times within a specific time frame. This is why it's so important for car owners to always keep documentation, receipts, and detailed service records of their vehicles.

Pursuing a Lemon Law Claim

If you think your car still qualifies for lemon law protections (even if it's out of warranty), your best bet is to seek legal guidance from an experienced lawyer who deals frequently with lemon law cases. He or she will be able to guide you on the next steps you should take to pursue your claim and make sure you're covered in your state. From there, you'll also have the representation you'll need in the event that you need to take the vehicle manufacturer or dealership to court. In many cases, however, a lawyer can help you reach a fair settlement out of court.