Are You Driving a Lemon? What You Need to Know About The Lemon Law

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Having problems with your new car? If you have been experiencing repeated problems that cannot seem to be fixed under the warranty you may want to learn more about the Lemon Law.

“The Wisconsin Lemon Law provides a refund or replacement vehicle if your new car is very defective or if it’s out of service for an extended period of time when you first own it,” said Terry Polich, Attorney at Lawton & Cates. “Basically if you have repeated problems with your car during the first year of service you should be checking into the lemon law.”

If your car has been in the shop four or more times for the same problem during your first year of ownership, or if it’s not working like it’s supposed to for 30 or more days during the first year even though you have brought it in for repair, you may qualify for a full refund or a replacement vehicle. Your vehicle only qualifies as a lemon if the problem substantially affects the vehicle’s use, value, or safety. All new motor vehicles sold or delivered in Wisconsin are protected by the lemon law, whether owned by a person or a business entity.

“The requirement is four times for the same nonconformity or 30 days out of service--that’s a lemon,” Polich said.

If your vehicle is a lemon as defined by the law, you have two options: Full Refund. You can obtain a full refund, including all amounts paid at point of sale, plus tax, title and licensing fees, all interest paid on the vehicle, and collateral costs, less a reasonable allowance for use which is defined by the law; or Comparable New Replacement Vehicle. You can opt for a comparable new replacement vehicle. If a comparable new replacement vehicle cannot be found in the exercise of due diligence, the manufacturer can opt to provide the refund option described above.

“For us to evaluate a lemon law claim you have to keep your repair orders. So everything you get at the point of sale--they sell you the car and then everything you get after that--repair orders, correspondence from the manufacturer, we need that to evaluate your case,” Polich said.

How long will it take? The manufacturer is required to respond with a full refund or written notice that it will provide a comparable replacement vehicle within 30 days. Some manufacturers have alternative dispute settlement procedures which can add some time to the process. But typically, a response is received within 30 days.

How long do I have to act on a Lemon Law Claim? You only have three years from the date you purchased the vehicle to pursue a lemon law claim. After that date, your lemon law claim is barred by the statute of limitations. You may have longer under the federal Magnuson-Moss warranty act, but you should not wait.

If you think you may have a lemon, contact Lawton and Cates at for a free consultation.

Lawton Cates