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Can a Pre-Owned Vehicle Be Considered a Lemon?

As many car buyers know, new vehicles are typically covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. In addition, consumers of new automobiles have additional protection under applicable state and federal lemon laws. These laws provide vehicle owners and lessees with remedies if their cars have been in for repeated repairs and the problem has not been resolved.

When it comes to used cars, consumers who’ve experienced problems are generally not protected by federal law, unless the owner has been provided with an express written warranty. Depending on how old the vehicle is, an express warranty could simply be the balance of the original manufacturer’s warranty. On the other hand, a used car dealer may provide a separate limited warranty.

Additionally, some dealers may offer an extended warranty or a service contract when the car is purchased. Finally, used vehicles may be certified by the dealer, which extends the original warranty or provides additional coverage on a short-term basis. In these situations, an express warranty allows a used car owner to pursue a breach of warranty claim as well as a claim under the federal lemon law.

State Used Car Lemon Laws

Because of persistent consumer complaints about pre-owned vehicles over time, some states have responded by enacting used car lemon laws. Many of these laws essentially create a used car warranty by statute, which depends on factors such as the age or mileage of the car. Similarly, other states have laws explicitly requiring used car sellers to provide warranties to buyers. Finally, there are often minimum standards and inspection requirements at the state level prior to a used car sale.

As an example, the New Jersey used car lemon law protects consumers who purchase pre-owned vehicles from licensed dealers in the state. Dealers are required to provide buyers with a warranty, the length of which is tied to the vehicle’s mileage. The law also requires used car dealers to repair defects during the warranty period.

There are limits to the coverage, however. The law only covers used passenger vehicles that are no more than seven model years old. Additionally, the vehicle’s mileage cannot exceed 100,000 miles on the purchase date, and the purchase price must be no less than $3,000. It is worth noting that a car dealer must be given a “reasonable amount of time” to repair or correct the defect.

In sum, a used car is only considered a lemon in New Jersey if (1) the vehicle has not been repaired after three attempts and (2) the vehicle has not been in service for 20 cumulative days. Finally, in order to have a valid lemon law claim, it is necessary to prove that the defect substantially impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle.

Remedies for Used Car Lemons

If the vehicle defect cannot be repaired, many state lemon laws require the dealer to replace the vehicle or refund the full purchase price of the car, excluding taxes, title and fees. If the dealer refuses to do so, it may be necessary to file a complaint with the appropriate state agency or pursue a lawsuit in state court. In addition to lemon laws, many states have enacted consumer protection laws that prohibit deceptive practices in used car sales. In any event, enforcing your consumer rights requires the guidance of an experienced used car lemon law attorney.

About the Author:

Tim Abeel started his own consumer law firm with the basic principle – to treat and approach each case in the same way he would want his own case treated.

With that principle in mind, Mr. Abeel has been able to achieve great results for consumers who need an advocate in their corner. Tim will work to get your case resolved as soon as possible and has the experience to take your case as far as needed to get you a great result.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

About This Blog

The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

If you find this type of information interesting or helpful, please visit my law firm's main website at You will find many more articles and links. Thank you for your time.

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