Automotive lemon laws: how they work in different states

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Is your car a lemon? The definition of a “lemon” car varies from state-to-state, but generally speaking, it describes a car with a serious defect that affects its safety, use, or value.

Automotive lemon laws are designed to protect consumers from losing out if they buy a shoddy vehicle. This means that if the manufacturer is unable to repair the car within a certain time period they are legally required to replace it.

Sounds great, right? Well, it isn’t always so simple, and in most states the rules only apply to new cars. Even the states that cover used cars have different criteria for what vehicles are eligible.

Let’s take a quick look at the lemon laws in seven states that offer protection whether you are buying or leasing a brand-new or a secondhand ride, to see exactly what rights you have.


In California, the lemon law covers new and used cars that come with the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty. If there’s a problem, the manufacturer or dealer has to fix it within a “reasonable” number of attempts. This isn’t a set figure, but usually means a couple of attempts for a fault that could cause a serious safety risk and four or more for a less serious one. If your car has been in the shop for 30 days (not necessarily in a row) then you’ve got yourself a lemon.


The first state to introduce a lemon law, Connecticut, gives rights to owners of defective vehicles at or under two years old or with a mileage of 24,000 or less. To date, the state has helped return more than $60 million in refunds and replacement vehicles. There’s a time window for repairs to be fixed, and if not, a refund should be in order.

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In New York, the lemon law covers owners of vehicles that are under two years old, or have less than 18,000 miles on the clock. The car should be mainly used for personal purposes. The dealer or manufacturer is given a “reasonable” four attempts to repair a problem for a cumulative 30 days or more.


Massachusetts protects consumers that have bought a new car with serious defects, or a used car with less than 125,000 miles at the point of sale. If a car has driven more than 125,000 miles it could still be covered if it fails an inspection within 7 days of  purchase. The state’s lemon law requires vehicles to be used for personal purposes.

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Consumers in New Jersey are covered under its lemon laws in a similar fashion. Your vehicle could be eligible for a refund or replacement if the car shows repeated defects within 2 years of purchase, or during its first 24,000 miles.


In Minnesota the lemon laws cover new and lightly used vehicles. After four attempts to repair a defect (one if it’s a seriously dangerous fault), or the car has been out of service for 30 cumulative business days then you should be eligible for a replacement or refund.

new mexico

New Mexico has similar lemon laws to the above states. Again, it covers cars used mainly for personal use and the vehicle must have a weight below 10,000 pounds. The reasonable repair time is four attempts (or 30 days in the shop). After that the manufacturer is required to replace the car or offer a refund.

If you’ve bought a lemon, you’ve got every right to feel bitter. And with any luck the car will be covered by your state's lemon laws. If not, Peddle is always happy to buy your car from you. And if you don’t have the energy to navigate your state’s lemon laws and want to shift your car ASAP, Peddle is your BFF. Whether it’s working or not, we’ll always offer cash for junk cars. You serve us lemons, we make lemonade.