What is a Lemon?

What is a Lemon?

If you think a car is extraordinarily unreliable, then maybe you have a lemon.

Specifically, a car can be labeled as a lemon if it is proven to be defective, with reoccurring problems that happen in a short period of time.

Lemons can be the result of an anomaly during the manufacturing process, like a worn out tool that couldn’t apply the right torque, or a missed item during quality inspection. One small imperfection can compromise a whole car, it’s like the butterfly effect, but for vehicles.

Although lemons are rare, they do happen, and the problem was big enough that the government got involved by passing legislation to help protect consumers.

“Most states deem a vehicle a lemon when it has been out of service more than three or four times,” explained Steve Lehto, a Lemon Law Attorney based in Michigan. He also points out that a car can be deemed a lemon if its been in service for 25 to 35 days. Lehto is the author of The New Lemon Law Bible, and has plenty of experience helping consumers with lemons.

“As you approach either one of those criteria, it would be a good idea to consult a lawyer to see what your state’s guidelines are. Too many people wait too long, and time is not on your side,” he said.

ALSO SEE: Toyota Tops, Fiat Flops in AutoGuide’s 1st Annual Lemon List

If you’re convinced your car is a lemon, then you can go through a process to get your vehicle bought back by the automaker or dealer that sold it to you. Understandably, it’s not always a pretty process, so attorneys like Lehto often have to get involved.

“Many of my my clients tell me they never thought they’d have to sue someone,” said Lehto. “But most car companies make you file suit to enforce your rights. It’s just business to them.” It’s also worth noting that any legal fees incurred during a Lemon Law suit are paid by the automaker.

When a car is found to be a lemon, the automaker will reimburse your down payment, all of your monthly payments, your current registration fee, and any outstanding balance left on the loan of the vehicle. Then the manufacturer will take the vehicle and brand the title as a lemon law buyback. It’s worth noting that sometimes the automaker will deduct some of your refund based on the mileage of the vehicle.

But what about lemons on the used car market? Some people will find it too much of a hassle to go through the buyback process and will try to unload their problems on an unsuspecting used car buyer. This concern is why it’s recommended to get an auto-repair history from CarFax or Auto Check.

“One of the great things about a CarFax report is that you can see the details of a service,” explained Christopher Basso, from CarFax public relations. “You can see what was done and when it was done and if there’s anything that has been repeating.”

Basso says that anyone buying a used car should make sure to do three things: “One: take a real test drive on city streets and on the highway. During this, you should keep an eye out for anything that’s not working. Two: Get a Carfax and take a thorough look at it and the items listed. Three: Get a pre-purchase inspection.” Basso explains that you should see any repeating problems or service visits that are too soon after one another on the CarFax report, which are a red flag for spotting a lemon. “You can also use that information to tell the mechanic what to look out for when doing the pre-purchase inspection.”

Basso also explains that if a car has been bought back by an automaker then, it will say it’s a lemon right in the title of the vehicle. “Vehicles that have been bought back are deemed as lemons and reported as such.”

But Lehto counters that this isn’t always the case. “Most states do not require branding the title of a lemon law buyback and many car companies simply sell the buybacks at auction as late-model used cars,” he said. “Since the lemon law only applies to new cars in most states, these cars should be avoided by consumers.”

Still, Lehto suggests checking the title and title history on a vehicle. “Do a title search and look to see if the manufacturer ever sold the car at auction after it had entered the stream of commerce,” which would show that the car was bought back and then sold at a dealer auction soon after.

Lemons are serious business and are a real worry for both new and used car buyers. If your new car is regularly acting up and is consistently in need of service, then you may have to get a lawyer involved to deem it a lemon and get your money back.

  • randy wellman

    why is a CAR called a lemon? …look at the reels on a slot machine from the 1920’s…if you got a LEMON, you didn’t get paid anything….that’s where the saying “i got a lemon” came from….BTW, it was the flavors of the GUM many slot machines vended from 1910 on….lemon, cherry, orange, plum…

« Back

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.


2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked