Lemon Laws in Washington

Lemon laws in Washington allow owners to claim reimbursement or even replacement within 30 months of purchasing a new vehicle.
Written by Tom Hindle
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Washington lemon laws apply to new and used cars purchased within 30 months of the claim.
In the automobile world, lemons are more than just citrus fruit. Rather, the term refers to a vehicle with a major defect that makes it unsafe or even impossible to drive.
Finding out that you've bought a lemon can leave a bad taste in your mouth. But the
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What is a lemon law?

Lemon laws
protect vehicle owners, offering them compensation in the form of a refund or a replacement vehicle if they’re sold a lemon. But it’s not that simple. Lemon laws are complex legal processes that owners need to understand when they purchase a new vehicle.
Such laws change from state to state, which means it can be difficult to find out if you are entitled to compensation for your defective car.
Here’s a rundown of what you can expect from lemon laws in Washington.

Is there a lemon law in Washington?

Yes. Washington has quite a comprehensive lemon law that’s relatively lenient towards consumers relative to other states. That said, there are a few technicalities that buyers need to get their heads around.

Is my defect covered under the lemon law?

Lemon laws apply to a wide range of vehicles, namely passenger cars, small and mid-sized trucks, large motorcycles, and motorhomes within 30 months of their original delivery date. The vehicle must have been purchased and registered in Washington.
Washington considers two major types of defects:
  • Nonconformity issues refer to a problem that "substantially impacts" the usability or safety of a vehicle
  • Serious safety defects that put the driver of the vehicle at serious risk when they get behind the wheel
Be aware that if your car is more than 30 months past its registration date, lemon laws don’t apply.
Here’s the breakdown:
  • A car can be dubbed a lemon if one certain major safety defect has gone through at least two unsuccessful repair attempts
  • If there are multiple serious safety defects that occur within the first two years of ownership and none have been repaired successfully after one attempt, the car is a lemon
  • A car is also a lemon if any one nonconformity issue has undergone four repair attempts without success
  • Alternatively, if a vehicle has been in a repair shop for more than 30 calendar days with half of those coming during the 30-month warranty period, lemon laws apply
Key Takeaway If your car has defects that significantly affect its use, market value, or safety, it may be considered a lemon. In Washington, you have two years of ownership to pursue action.

Are used cars covered under the lemon law?

Yes, used cars are covered under the lemon law. And given the 30-month grace period, it’s possible that you could have been sold a lemon.
If your used vehicle is defective and it’s within the first two years since its initial delivery, you have the right to go through the lemon law process for reimbursement.

What about new cars?

New passenger cars, small and mid-sized trucks, large motorcycles, and motorhomes within 30 months of their original delivery date are covered by the lemon law in Washington. The vehicle must also have been purchased and registered in Washington.

How to pursue your lemon law rights in Washington

Exercising your lemon law rights in Washington is a complicated process—one in which a lawsuit should probably serve as a last resort.
Start by identifying any faults, then consider arbitration. And if that doesn't work, filing a claim is your best bet to recoup your losses.

Report and repair

First, you need to go through the criteria to see if you can evaluate your car as a lemon. If your car meets the criteria, you must report it within two years of ownership.
It’s then over to the dealership to carry out at least three authorized repair attempts. Make sure you keep track of every attempt and save all invoices and documentation.

Consider arbitration

Lemon laws can get messy. Before you sign yourself up for a long legal process, consider negotiating with the manufacturer directly. Most dealers have processes in place to avoid legal action and coming to an agreement independently is less complicated and usually free.
Write to the manufacturer requesting replacement or reimbursement of your vehicle. Be as specific as possible, adding details such as make and model, a thorough description of defects, and a summary of where and when repair attempts occurred.
The manufacturer has 40 days to deliver a satisfactory response. If their response is unsatisfactory, you can submit an official form to the lemon law administration.
If you’re moving ahead with a lawsuit, hire an attorney. The legal process is complex and manufacturers will have professionals representing them. Most states require the manufacturer to pay any legal fees if you win.
Even if you do everything by the book, you still might not win your case. Manufacturers could dispute that they were given "reasonable attempts" to fix the vehicle, for example.
Key Takeaway You should try to come to an agreement with a manufacturer first. If that doesn't work, pursue legal action.
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Lemon law tips

Here are a few things to keep in mind about lemon laws in Washington:
  • Lemon laws cannot be claimed if the owner makes any major
    modifications to their vehicle
  • Repair attempts must be conducted by dealerships or manufacturers that the original seller authorizes, otherwise the lemon law case could be dismissed
  • When you’re getting your vehicle looked at, stay consistent with your wording and explanation of the problem—lemon laws only cover one recurring issue, so it’s important to use the same words each time
  • If you lose your case or if the law doesn’t apply, you can explore other options such as the federal Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act, which offers similar consumer protections

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