State Lemon Laws

Q: What is a Lemon?

A:  "Lemon" is a term used to describe a defective product.  Although the term can apply to any type of product, it is commonly used to describe a defective car, truck or motorcycle that has shown to suffer from continued problems that have been difficult to fix, or from a repeated occurence of a dangerous defect.

Defective cars have proven to be a persistent problem for consumers, and states have found it necessary to enact laws that protect consumers from problem automobiles.  These Lemon Laws, as they are commonly called, define when a car's defects may classify that car as a lemon, and typically provides the consumer compensation from the car manufacturer. These laws also serve a seemingly contradictory purpose - they protect manufacturers since they clearly define when a car may be considered to be a lemon and reduce frivolous lawsuits. 

In some states, a car may be defined as a lemon if a life threatening problem is not fixed with 1 attempt.  In other states, it takes a lot more to define a car as a lemon.

As an example, New Jersey's Lemon Law defines a car as a Lemon if:

  • 1 or more defects continue to exist after three attempts to repair the car OR
  • The vehicle has been out of service for a total of 20 cumulative calendar days 
However, in New Jersey the Lemon Law only applies if:
  • The consumer provides written notification to the manufacturer that one of the first two conditions has been meant, and the manufacturer is not able to fix the problem.
  • The defects substantially impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle.
  • The repairs must have been attempted by the manufacturer, or an authorized dealer (not your neighbor who is a mechanic)
  • The vehicle is less than 2 years old and has less than 18,000 miles on it when you first submit your letter to the manufacturer.
As you can see, the NJ Lemon Law has many conditions and many steps that you are required to take in order to ensure that you receive your compensation (and we haven't even begun to describe what the compensation is).   There is also more fine print that we have excluded here as well.

Lemon Laws differ significantly by state, and in order to see if your car classifies as a lemon you should browse through our website more to see what the laws are for your state. 


We are consumer advocates, not a law firm. Information on this website should not be taken as legal advice, and you should consult a lawyer before taking legal action. Although we have taken the utmost care in assembling this information, Online Consumer Alliance Incorporated assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of this information or liability for any errors or omissions in the content. Copyright Online Consumer Alliance Incorporated 2004. All Rights Reserved.