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Details on State Lemon Laws

Everyone has heard of someone who has bought a new car that was a "lemon." The car had either one major defect that could not be repaired or numerous minor defects that were always in need of repair.

Prior to the 1970s, when consumer advocacy hit its peak and numerous laws were enacted to protect the buyers of lemons, the only recourse the purchaser had was his or her warranty. As long as the manufacturer and dealer exercised their best efforts to fix the car while it was under warranty, the owner was stuck with the lemon. After the warranty period expired, the owner paid for the repairs.

"Lemon laws," or new car warranty laws, were enacted to place limits on what the consumer must endure should he or she purchase a lemon. Under the terms of the lemon laws, if the car cannot be fixed, the consumer must be compensated, either with a new car or with a cash refund. States are split among those that leave the decision of the specific remedy up to the consumer, manufacturer, or seller. All states now have lemon laws. In many states, the consumer has at least one year from the date of purchase to make a claim under the law. Most states allow the consumer two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first, to make a claim.

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