Many people use the term “lemon” to describe a vehicle in which the consumer got a sour deal, pun intended. The definition from Wikipedia for a “lemon (automobile)” is as follows…
“A lemon is a vehicle (often new) that is found to have several manufacturing defects which may affect the safety, value or use of the vehicle. Any vehicle with numerous, severe issues can be termed so and, by extension, so can any product with flaws too great or severe to serve its purpose.”
Is There Really a “Lemon Law?”
Actually, there is. A federal law passed in 1975 called the “Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act” is the federally mandated lemon law. It gives the FTC a better grip on the automotive industry’s warranty practices and is there to protect the new car customers. The law does not mandate that an automotive manufacturer supplies a warranty coverage with a new car. It simply states that if a warranty is offered by an automaker, it must be in writing, easily understood, and puts the automotive manufacturer on the spot, “requiring” that they honor their own warranty and if they cannot, or the vehicle does not cooperate, to buy back any car from the consumer determined to be a lemon.
State variations on the federal lemon law may vary.
What Classifies as a Lemon?
There are legal classifications pertaining only to a new car being called a lemon. To satisfy the requirement, a car must have a defect due to any number of things from poor materials, to the weak quality of craftsmanship. This defect inherently makes the vehicle unsafe or not roadworthy. Sticky throttle, shorting out headlamps or a faulty set of brakes all make a vehicle unsafe. These issues could make the vehicle a lemon, if the manufacturer is not able to fix them in a timely manner, under 30 days.
Things that may not classify a car as a lemon are a broken radio, a stuck blower fan, or a torn seat. None of these issues affect the safety of the vehicle under normal circumstances.
A common variation of the term lemon is used to classify a used car and refers to a vehicle that may have serious reoccurring mechanical issues and/or was not properly explained to the consumer before the sale. Typically, when the lemon of the used car variation is found, the consumer will be stuck with outrageous repair bills and may end up paying more than the car’s actual value on service.
How Do I Spot a Lemon to Avoid One?
As with anything in life, if it seems to good to be true, chances are it probably is. Pay attention to what is in front of you. If the vehicle in question is a newer model year with relatively low miles and a price that is just way too low for a car like that, use your better judgment. If you’re still unsure, a great way to cover all of your bases is to take an extended test drive and drive it right to a local and trusted mechanic, independent of the dealership the car is from, of course. Use common sense and a lemon of a deal can be avoided.