A motor vehicle that contains a defect or condition that significantly impairs its safety, use, or market value could be a “lemon.” If you’ve purchased or leased such a vehicle in Virginia, you may be entitled to either a replacement vehicle or refund of your purchase price under the Virginia Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act (MVWEA), or “Lemon Law.”
Your vehicle Could Be a Lemon If:
- It was purchased or leased in Virginia and is covered by a warranty; and
- It is used for personal, family, or household purposes; and
- It is a passenger vehicle (up to 10 passengers), a pickup or panel truck of no more than 7,500 pounds gross weight, a motorcycle, or a leased vehicle; and
- The vehicle has a defect or condition that significantly impairs its use, market value, or safety, even if the defect or condition doesn’t affect the vehicle’s drivability.
What Defects or Conditions are Covered?
- The Lemon Law covers any nonconformity, which it defines as a defect or condition that significantly impairs a vehicle’s use, market value, or safety.
The Lemon Law presumes that a vehicle has a nonconformity if within 18
months of the vehicle’s delivery date:
- the manufacturer or dealer has made three or more attempts to repair the same issue;
- the manufacturer or dealer has made one or more repair attempts to fix a serious safety defect; or
- in a single year, the vehicle was out of service due to repairs for a cumulative 30 calendar days or more.
- The law doesn’t provide remedies for nonconformities that result from consumer abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modifications or alterations.
My Car Is a Lemon! Now What?
- Before the vehicle’s warranty period expires, the manufacturer or authorized dealer must be notified that the vehicle has a nonconformity. The manufacturer or dealer must then make the necessary repairs so that the vehicle conforms to its warranty, even if the warranty period has expired.
- The manufacturer must either provide a comparable, acceptable replacement vehicle or refund the vehicle’s purchase price if the nonconformity can’t be repaired or corrected during the 18-month Lemon Law period. You have an unconditional right to a refund, rather than replacement, and may drive the nonconforming vehicle until the replacement or refund is provided.
- The law includes strict timelines for action. Legal action or a request for informal dispute resolution must be initiated within 18 months of the vehicle’s delivery date.
- If you’ve chosen informal dispute resolution by this 18-month deadline, you’ll be able to assert your Lemon Law rights later on if the matter can’t be informally resolved.
If You Are Buying a Vehicle
- Protect yourself when buying a used car by using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to confirm the vehicle’s repair history. Multiple repairs may indicate a lemon buyback. Contact the manufacturer and use the VIN to obtain the vehicle’s defect history.
Lemons that have been returned to the manufacturer may be resold.
Consequently, if buying or leasing from a dealer, ask for a copy of the
vehicle’s defect history before the transaction’s final.
- The Virginia Lemon Law imposes disclosure obligations on both the manufacturers and dealers involved in the resale or lease of returned vehicles.
- You may have bought a lemon buyback from a dealer who didn’t disclose the vehicle’s defect history. If so, contact the Motor Vehicle Dealer Board (MVDB) or call 804-367-1050. The MVDB may suggest you file a claim with the Virginia Motor Vehicle Transaction Recovery Fund, which reimburses persons who have suffered loss or damage in connection with the purchase or lease of a motor vehicle due to illegal actions of licensed or registered dealers or salespersons.
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