Car salesmen are the least trusted people in the U.S., with only 9% of Americans trusting them. They rank lower than members of Congress.

The reason why is because car salespeople have a reputation for selling bad cars to good people. They have a reputation for being pushy and using pressure tactics to get the sale. The car breaks down a few weeks later and people are stuck with a bad car.

There are lemon laws on the books, but they can be hard to understand. Is there a used car lemon law? What kind of recourse do you have if your car breaks down?

Read on to find out the details of lemon laws for used cars.

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What Is a Lemon?

The history of the term lemon was traced back to the early 1900s. Back then, it was used to describe a bad experience or outcome. A common phrase of the day was “the answer is a lemon.”

The term was applied to cars, especially since car buying could turn into a sour experience. It’s important to remember that just because the car has a few issues, it doesn’t make it a lemon.

There’s a legal standard that the car has to meet to be considered a lemon. The car has to have a serious problem that can’t be repaired. The issue or issues impact the value of the car, the safety of operation, or overall usefulness.

It’s not a lemon if the air conditioner stops working a week after you purchase it, or if the battery goes dead. But it may be a lemon if the transmission fails. At that point, you can’t drive it.

Is There a Used Car Lemon Law?

You have to look at two types of law to find what lemon laws apply to used cars. The first is federal law. These laws are usually created by Congress and signed by the President.

The second is state law. These are laws passed in every state. We’ll take a look at state laws first.

State Lemon Laws

Each state has its own version of lemon laws, which can make the law very confusing. Most states have lemon laws that apply to only new car sales.

The only states that have a used car lemon law are New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Minnesota, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

These laws have a specific warranty period that protects consumers. If a used car has issues during the warranty period, the dealer has the chance to repair the issue. If the car still has issues, the dealer either has to replace the car or refund the money.

Other states have watered-down versions of lemon laws. For example, most states have laws to prohibit unfair practices. Used car salespeople have to answer questions honestly. The problem is that it’s up to you to prove that the salesperson lied.

Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico, Maine, and Arizona have standards that dealers have to meet or set a minimum warranty on all used car sales.

Federal Lemon Laws

In 1975, Congress passed the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This is the federal lemon law that applies to new and used cars that have a written warranty.

For example, if you buy a certified pre-owned car that has problems and it has a written warranty, it could be covered by federal lemon laws.

How to Avoid Buying a Lemon

As you can tell, the lemon laws are very specific and they may not apply to every situation. Most laws will cover new cars without question. You may or may not be covered if you buy a used car.

Therefore, you want to do your best to avoid buying a lemon. Here are a few steps you can take to do so.

Document Everything

The best way to protect yourself is to document everything about the sale. You need to document the sales process, the questions you asked the seller, and the seller’s answers.

You’ll need to review the sales contract carefully and read the warranty documents. It’s important to hang on to copies of these documents.

Avoid Private Party Transactions

What if you want to buy a used car sold by a private party? These sales aren’t usually covered by lemon laws at the state and federal level.

Massachusetts is one of the few states that covers private used car sales. You have to prove that the seller didn’t disclose the defect in the car.

If you do buy a car from a private party, you’re usually agreeing to buy the car as-is. If you want to have some recourse, you’ll want to buy from a used car dealer.

Take the Car to a Mechanic

Take the car for a test drive to make sure that it runs well. You also want to take it to a mechanic who can inspect the car. They can spot any potential issues, such as a loose part or worn down parts that will need replacements.


They’ll tell you if the car is worth buying or if it’s a potential lemon.

If You Do Buy a Lemon…

What steps should you take if you do buy a lemon? Again, you want to document everything about the transaction and the repair.

Only some states have laws that give dealers a few opportunities to repair the issue or offer a replacement. Your first step will be to contact the dealer and let them know of the issue.

If they ignore your calls or refuse to fix the issue, you’ll want to take the next step and see a lemon law lawyer. The attorney will advise you of your legal rights and help you resolve the situation.

Understanding Used Car Lemon Law

Is there a used car lemon law? It depends on where you live and who you buy your car from. While most lemon laws apply to new cars, not all laws apply to used cars.


You want to make sure that you understand the used car lemon laws in your state and at the federal level before you buy.

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