What Is a Lemon Law?

Lemon laws give you a chance to return a car or have it replaced if it ends up being defective. Lemon laws vary by state.
Written by Olivia Rose
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Lemon laws are federal or state laws that protect consumers when they purchase defective consumer products or vehicles—what are referred to as "lemons." Essentially, a lemon law states that, as a consumer, you have the right to a refund or replacement of a faulty or unsafe vehicle (or consumer good) that was sold to you.
Lemon laws vary state by state, and they’re not always as simple as they sound. That’s why the
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Read on to learn about lemon laws.
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How do lemon laws work?

A lemon law is a law that states that defective vehicles or consumer products must be repaired, replaced, or refunded. Lemon laws protect consumers from faulty products and predatory manufacturers who might intentionally sell defective items for profit.
Lemon laws can also protect consumers when it comes to vehicles or products being falsely advertised.
Lemon laws typically apply to new cars and products, so if you’re looking for a used car make sure to research the lemon laws of your state. Also, be sure to do your due diligence before making a permanent purchase.
Typically with a lemon law, a company or manufacturer will be allowed reasonable attempts at fixing an issue or defect in a product. If a certain number of reasonable attempts are made with no success, the seller must replace or repurchase the vehicle or product.
The intricacies of lemon laws will vary state by state, but in general, a consumer can file a complaint with the state or another entity. This might lead to arbitration and court hearings—and the seller will have to provide proof that reasonable attempts for repairing the vehicle or product were made.
If you think your vehicle might be a lemon, make sure to document everything extensively—every repair made, every trip to the shop, all of it. You’ll need to provide proof of all of this in order to win your claim.
Key Takeaway Lemon laws protect consumers who have purchased defective cars or consumer products. Sometimes they apply to used cars, but for the most part, lemon laws usually apply to new vehicles.

Lemon law examples—state by state

We’ve provided a quick overview of the lemon laws in Virginia, California, Tennessee, Georgia, and Kentucky to give you a sense of how they may vary from state to state.


Virginia’s lemon law
, the Virginia Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act, allows car buyers to file a claim within 18 months of the delivery of the purchase. Note that this time frame begins when the first owner of the vehicle receives their purchase.
In Virginia, used car owners might be able to file lemon law claims. The car dealership must be allowed to make multiple reasonable attempts at repairing the issue with the vehicle before a claim can be made.


California Lemon Law
applies to most cars that are still under the manufacturer’s new car warranty—this even includes used cars, so long as they are under the manufacturer’s new car warranty.
If a dealer buys back a "lemon" car and resells it, they must label that car as a "lemon" and include a lemon sticker on the side of the vehicle. If they don’t, the buyer might be able to appeal to the lemon law if the car is defective.


According to the
Tennessee Lemon Law
, car buyers can file a claim if their vehicle suffers a defect within the first 12 months of ownership or during the express warranty period—whichever comes first.
If your car is in the shop for 30 days total or more within the first year of ownership, you are covered by the lemon law. The Tennessee Lemon Law covers new cars, leased cars, and motorcycles—it does not cover used cars.


Lemon Law does not apply to used cars (purchased or leased), motorcycles, mopeds, trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more, ATVs, boats, or trailers. The law covers any defect covered in the manufacturer’s warranty that substantially impairs the car’s use.


Kentucky’s lemon laws
generally cover new car buyers—not motorcycles or used cars. But, there is one protection for used car buyers: rolling back the odometer is a Class D felony, and if the seller does so, the buyer is entitled to three times the amount of the damages (plus attorney and court costs).
To qualify under Kentucky’s lemon law, entitled Defective New Cars, defects on the vehicle must occur within 12 months of ownership or 12,000 miles driven on the car, whichever comes first.
Key Takeaway Lemon laws vary from state to state, so make sure you check out your local guidelines.
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What can I do for more protection?

Make sure you are familiar with both your
car warranty and car insurance
policy. Car warranties complement lemon laws and will often cover vehicle defects and mechanical errors.
A car insurance policy, on the other hand, will give you protection against damages caused by collisions or other causes (like fire, theft, or vandalism).

Where to buy car insurance

There are many different
types of insurance
you can purchase, and different coverages have different benefits.
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An additional safety cushion: roadside assistance

If you want another safety net for you and your car, consider buying emergency roadside assistance. Roadside assistance with
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At Jerry, we want you to feel safe and secure while on the road—without having to break the bank.
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What is the meaning of a lemon law?

A lemon law is a federal or state law that protects consumers when they purchase defective vehicles or consumer products—aka "lemons."
Typically under lemon laws, a manufacturer or seller must make several reasonable attempts at fixing faults in the product—for instance, a car dealership might be granted reasonable attempts at fixing a faulty transmission on a brand new vehicle. If a number of reasonable attempts are made with no success, the manufacturer or seller must repurchase or replace the car or product.

What do lemon laws apply to?

Lemon laws can apply to a variety of consumer goods, but many of them are written specifically for car purchases.
As far as cars go, lemon laws generally apply to new cars. It is less common that they apply to used cars, and when they do, it’s often for "newer" used cars (i.e. a car still under the manufacturer’s warranty).
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