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General Lemon Law

What is the Lemon Law?

MotorVehicleTitle_smThe Washington State Motor Vehicle “Lemon Law” was enacted to help new vehicle owners who have substantial continuing problems with warranty repairs. The law allows the owner to request an arbitration hearing through the Lemon Law Administration of Attorney General’s Office. An owner can request arbitration under Lemon Law at any time within 30 months of the vehicle’s original retail delivery date. There will be no charge for the arbitration process. After an arbitration hearing, an arbitrator will decide whether a consumer’s claim meets the requirements under the law.

Note: The Lemon Law does not allow a consumer to stop making loan or lease payments while pursuing a Lemon Law claim.

 

Downloads

Lemon Law Cars, Trucks and Motorcycle Booklet (PDF)Lemon Law Motor Home Booklet (PDF)
Request for Arbitration Form (PDF)
RCW 19.118 – The Motor Vehicle Warranties Act, generally known as the Lemon Law. Click here to see the 2009 Lemon Law revisions effective 7/26/2009.
WAC 44-10 – Lemon Law Administrative Rules, arbitration and the arbitration process.

Is Your Vehicle a Motor Home?

There are additional requirements and limitations if your vehicle is a motor home. The motor home requirements are described in the Motor Home Lemon Law booklet available from the Lemon Law Administration. It is also downloadable from the Lemon Law website.

Which Vehicles Are Eligible?

The Lemon Law covers most classes of new motor vehicles including “demonstrators” originally purchased or leased at retail in Washington.

Note – Armed Forces Provision: If you are a member of the armed forces stationed or residing in Washington, a new vehicle brought with you from another state is also covered by Washington’s Lemon Law if it was purchased or leased with a manufacturer written warranty within the last 30 months and the vehicle otherwise meets the definition of a ‘new motor vehicle’.

The following vehicles are not covered by the Lemon Law:

  • Motorcycles with engine displacements of less than 750 cubic centimeters;
  • Trucks over 19,000 lbs. gross weight rating;
  • Vehicles purchased or leased (as a group or under a single contract) by a business as part of a fleet of 10 or more.

You do not have to be the original owner to request arbitration. Later owners of a vehicle may request arbitration if the vehicle was purchased or leased:

  • within two years of delivery to the original retail consumer and within the first 24,000 miles of operation
  • the vehicle meets the other eligibility requirements and
  • A Request For Arbitration is received by the Lemon Law Administration within 30 months of the original retail delivery date.

What is a “Lemon”?

Your vehicle may qualify as a “lemon” if it has one or more significant defects that have been subject to a “reasonable number of attempts” to diagnose or repair the problem(s) covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.  The law covers only defects that “substantially impair” the use, value, or safety of the motor vehicle.

A manufacturer is required to repurchase or replace a vehicle with a ‘nonconformity’ or ‘serious safety defect’ after a “reasonable number of attempts” have occurred. A “reasonable number of attempts” are different for each claim category.

At the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator will ask you to identify the basis for your claim under the Lemon Law including the type of each defect that occurred in your vehicle and the claim categories.

You should present all Lemon Law claim categories that apply to your vehicles’ defects and warranty service history.

Types of Defects CoveredUnder the Lemon Law

The Lemon Law covers 2 types of defects.  Each is defined by how dangerous a defect is and how the defect affects the vehicle’s reliability, value and general safety.

Nonconformity
A ‘nonconformity' is a defectthat “substantially impairs” the use, value or safety of the motor vehicle making the vehicle unreliable, unsafe for ordinary use or diminished in resale value compared to equivalent vehicles. 

Serious Safety Defect
A ‘serious safety defect’ is a life-threatening malfunction that impairs the driver’s ability to control or operate the vehicle, or creates a risk of fire or explosion.

Claim Categories Under the LemonLaw

There are 4 categories of claims that a consumer can prove at the arbitration hearing resulting in a manufacturer being required to repurchase or replace a new motor vehicle:

1. Unrepaired Nonconformity
A ‘nonconformity’ covered by a manufacturer warranty where:

  • The ‘nonconformity has been subject to diagnosis or repair four or more times  including at least once during the period of the manufacturer’s written warranty and during the“eligibility period” (see What Is The Eligibility Period?)
  • The nonconformity continues to exist
  • The consumer sent a written request to the manufacturer asking for repurchase or replacement of the vehicle
  • The manufacturer failed to respond or did not reach a resolution with the consumer within 40 days.   

2. Unrepaired Serious Safety Defect
A ‘serious safety defect’ covered by a manufacturer warranty where:

  • The ‘serious safety defect’ has been subject to diagnosis or repair two or more times including at least once during the period of the manufacturer’s written warranty and during the“eligibility period” (see What Is The Eligibility Period?)
  • The serious safety defect continues to exist.  
  •  The consumer sent a written request to the manufacturer asking for repurchase or replacement of the vehicle and 
  • the manufacturer failed to respond or did not reach a resolution with the consumer within 40 days.

3. Multiple Serious Safety Defects
Two or more different ‘serious safety defects’ (whether or not repaired) covered by the manufacturer's warranty:

  • Occur within a twelve-month period during the first 2 years and 24,000 miles (the “eligibility period” - see What Is The Eligibility Period?)
  • Each ‘serious safety defect’ has been subject to diagnosis or repair one or more times at least once during the period of the applicable manufacturer’s written warranty
  • The consumer sent a written request to the manufacturer asking for repurchase or replacement of the vehicle and
  • The manufacturer failed to respond or did not reach a resolution with the consumer within 40 days.  

Note: Whether or not a ‘serious safety defect’ has been repaired is not a factor for a ‘two serious safety defects’ claim.

4. Days Out of Service
Days out of service accumulated during attempts to diagnose or repair due to one or more ‘nonconformities’ or ‘serious safety defects’.  The vehicle has been out of service due to diagnosis or repair:

  • a cumulative total of 30 or more cumulative calendar days 
  • at least 15 days occurred during the period of the manufacturer’s written warranty and during the “eligibility period” (see What Is The Eligibility Period?)
  • The consumer sent a written request to the manufacturer asking for repurchase or replacement of the vehicle and
  •  manufacturer failed to respond or did not reached a resolution with the consumer within 40 days  

Note: Days out of service are included whether or not a substantial defect has been repaired.

What Is A Warranty? What Is A Manufacturer’s Written Warranty?

Generally, a warranty is an express (oral or written) or implied promise regarding the qualities or characteristics of goods or services, which is enforceable in a court of law (or in arbitration). In the context of a new motor vehicle, the term "warranty" refers to the obligations of the manufacturer or seller for defective materials or workmanship or, under implied warranties, the failure of a new motor vehicle to be ‘fit for ordinary use’ or fit for ‘reasonably intended purposes.’

 

"Warranty" includes express (oral or written) and implied promises and may include ‘affirmations of fact or promise’ made by the manufacturer in connection with the sale or lease of a new motor vehicle that ‘becomes part of the basis of the bargain’. This may include representations made in the owner’s manual, brochures or advertising if it was a substantial reason you selected this specific vehicle or model.

 

A “manufacturer’s written warranty” states the manufacturer’s obligations to a consumer if there is a defect in a new motor vehicle identified during a limited time period after the first retail sale or lease. The ‘warranty period’ usually is determined by time and/or mileage. A service contract is not a warranty because it is an agreement to make repairs rather than a guarantee of a vehicle’s quality and attributes.

 

A modification by a new motor vehicle dealer is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty if the dealer installs the manufacturer's authorized parts (or the manufacturer approved equivalent) and follows the manufacturer’s specifications for a specific vehicle model.

 

Note: A vehicle converter or modifier (which may include a dealership) is a ‘manufacturer’ under the Lemon Law in specific circumstances. A vehicle modifier is a ‘manufacturer’ with warranty responsibilities and potential Lemon Law liability if:

  • a vehicle has been modified in any way before you purchase/lease a new vehicle and the modification is not covered by the ‘factory’ warranty or
  • you requested that a dealer modify or add an ‘option’ to a new vehicle as part of your purchase or lease that turns out to be defective, is not covered by the factory warranty and the dealer did not haveyou sign a written disclosure stating that ‘the modification may void all or part of the manufacturer’s warranty and that Lemon Law remedies may not apply to the modification’.

Are All Problems Covered Under the Lemon Law?

The law does not cover problems caused by abuse or neglect, or any modifications or alterations made to a new vehicle after the original retail sale or lease.  If the dealer made a proper written disclosure signed by you, the Lemon Law will not cover options or modifications you requested aspart of the purchase or lease. Consumer requested modification sometimes are not authorized by the manufacturer and may void all or part of the manufacturer’s warranty. 

What is the Eligibility Period?

For a defect to be covered under the Lemon Law it must have had at least one attempt to diagnose or repair under the manufacturer’s warranty and during the Lemon Law’s “eligibility period.”  If your Request For Arbitration includes a claim due to ‘days out of service’, the Lemon Law requires that at least 15 or more days must have occurred during the “eligibility period.”  See Claim Categories Under The Lemon Law.

The Lemon Law “eligibility period” is not a set time frame. It is often shorter than the manufacturer’s warranty coverage (a manufacturer warranty must cover at least 12 months or 12,000 miles).  The “eligibility period” is determined by a mileage limit and a time limit.  An ‘attempt to diagnose or repair’ a defect occurred during the “eligibility period” if it was diagnosed or repaired:

  • Within 2 years from the original retail delivery date and
  • Before the vehicle reached 24,000 miles of operation.

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More Topics on General Lemon Law

Before Requesting Arbitration | Completing the Form | After Requesting Arbitration | Arbitration Process | Arbitration Decision | Replacement or Repurchase? | Contact Us

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