How Do You Know You've Bought A Lemon?

How to know if your brand new car is a lemon.
By Brian Alexander, Content Editor
You waited a long time to get a new car. Countless hours were spent shopping for the right vehicle, securing financing and shopping for insurance; and now that you finally have your new car, the last thing you want to deal with is the headache of unexpected maintenance and troubleshooting.

Unfortunately such tiresome vehicles exist, these lemons seem to have constant faults with one or sometimes several of their major systems and can cause owners serious agony in addition to costing them some serious cash.

A lemon is any car that suffers from a recurring problem or defect that damages its use, value or safety within a specified period of time. Generally, a car that has received service for the same defect four or more times within the warranty period is considered a lemon.

If you think your car is a lemon, the first thing you need to do is let your dealer know about it - the more promptly you report problems, the quicker they can be diagnosed and repaired. If the issue is widespread across the model range, your dealer should have no problem diagnosing and rectifying the problem, and may have even issue a recall on the affected part or, if you're unlucky, parts.

If you are suffering from a repetitive issue that seems to be specific to your vehicle, you still have options that protect your rights as a consumer. Each state has what are called Lemon Laws, or laws that define what constitutes a lemon and protect car owners from paying for recurring repairs.

The laws differ from state to state - for example, states may differ on their definition of the "warranty period" - but every state has a program that protects consumers from overly faulty equipment. While some states only require that owners file a complaint against the manufacturer, others require legal representation in order to file a lemon case against a manufacturer.

So what happens if you have a lemon and decide to file a complaint or litigate against the manufacturer? If the court sides with you in the end, the manufacturer will be forced to either buy back the vehicle, refund the purchase price or replace the vehicle, depending on state law. The manufacturer will likely have to reimburse you for maintenance costs as well, along with any associated legal fees.

If you think you have a lemon, consult your state's Lemon Law and decide if you should move forward with a case. If your vehicle qualifies as a lemon, chances are you will be reimbursed and rid of any further frustration due to recurring maintenance.

Track Your Service Records
Get Recall Alerts
Get Updated Value Estimates on Your Car.
Go to a Review