What is the manufacturer's obligation under the lemon laws?

Under lemon laws, the manufacturer is usually held responsible for compensating the consumer for the defective "lemon" vehicle. The exact obligations of a vehicle manufacturer under lemon laws will vary depending on state. Each state has its own rules and regulations for what constitutes a lemon vehicle and what the manufacturer is required to do in a given situation in order to make things right with the consumer.

For specific details on what your manufacturer may be responsible for, it's important to check local statutes in your area. However, in general terms, under any given lemon law, the manufacturer has certain obligations, provided the vehicle and its problems fall within the statutes of the warranty contract. The manufacturer must make necessary repairs to the vehicle to remedy the non-conforming condition. Repairs must be done even after the lemon law warranty time has expired, provided the consumer notified the manufacturer of the problem within the time window. If reasonable attempts to repair the problem do not succeed, the manufacturer is obligated to either replace the vehicle with a comparable one, or accept a return of the vehicle from the consumer. The choice is up to the consumer.

Should the lemon vehicle be returned, the manufacturer must reimburse the consumer. Typically, the amount reimbursed is determined based a number of factors. These include the full contract price, non-refundable portions of warranties and service contracts, collateral charges (license fees, registrations, etc.), finance charges incurred after the issue was reported, and other costs to the consumer such as court fees, lawyer fees, and costs of alternative transportation.

Once again, all details will vary--sometimes significantly--by location and by case, so it's important to research your local lemon laws before moving ahead with a lemon law claim. You should also consider consulting a consumer or lemon law attorney to learn about the lemon law guidelines in your area and to make sure you follow the proper steps in making the claim against the manufacturer.