Business & Finance

Understanding the Lemon Law


Anyone who has ever purchased a new car has experienced the excitement and satisfaction of driving around in a shiny up-to-the minute dependable vehicle. Even that new car smell can be intoxicating. But what happens if that great deal turns out to be a bust, and the car has major mechanical problems or simply doesn’t perform the way it is supposed to?

Once the deal goes sour, what can the consumer do? Fortunately, New York State Law has a special law to protect consumers who purchase cars that turn out to be lemons. New York’s New Car Lemon Law, General Business Law Section 198 (a), provides a legal remedy for vehicles that turn out to be disappointments.

This law covers both new and used cars, including motorcycles and motor homes. In order to qualify, the vehicle must have been covered by the manufactures warranty at the time of the original delivery. The vehicle must also be purchased, leased or transferred in New York State and must be primarily for personal use.

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Most importantly, the Lemon Law requires that the vehicle must be less than two years old and have less than 18,000 miles on it. First and foremost, the consumer must immediately report any defect or condition covered by the manufacturer’s warranty directly to the manufacturer or its authorized dealer.

The manufacturer has a duty to repair any defect without charge. If the problem is not repaired after a reasonable number of attempts, or the manufacturer or the dealer refuses to commence repairs within 20 days from the manufacturer’s receipt of the refusal to the repair notice from the consumer, and if the problem substantially impairs the value of the vehicle, the manufacturer may be required to refund the full purchase or lease prices or offer a comparable replacement car.

A reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle is defined under the Lemon Law as four or more times, or the car being out of service by reason or repair for a cumulative total of 30 or more calendar days for one or more problems. The consumer’s complaint must be a serious problem such as an engine defect, repeated stalling, or transmission problems. However, some courts have found that the cumulative effects of numerous lesser defects can add up to a substantial impairment of value which can also meet the criteria of the Lemon Law.

If qualified under the Lemon Law, the consumer has the option of either participating in an arbitration program or suing the manufacturer directly in court. The arbitration program is inexpensive and effective as long as the Lemon Law requirements are met.

One can contact the New York State Attorney General Lemon Law Arbitration Unit at oag.state.NY.US directly (search Lemon Law Protection), or seek out counsel familiar with Lemon Law cases. If a consumer follows the proper procedures and qualifies under the law, they will most likely end up with a new vehicle or a full returned.

So if your new car purchase goes sour, this unique law provides a viable solution to make lemonade out of what has turned out to be a lemon.

Rick S. Cowle is an attorney admitted to practice law in New York, Connecticut, the District of Columbia and the United States Supreme Court. He is president of The Law Office of Rick S. Cowle, P.C., a general practice law firm located at 18 Fair St., Carmel. He can be reached at 845-225-3026 or For more information, visit This article is meant for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to give legal advice.

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