Legal outlines vehicle protections with ‘Lemon Law’

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kayla Stevens
  • 66th Air Base Group Office of the Staff Judge Advocate

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Due to a lack of supply and an increase in demand, consumers may currently have a challenging time finding a vehicle without defects.   

When purchasing a vehicle from a dealer or private seller, the 66th Air Base Group Legal Office urges personnel to understand their rights under the state’s Lemon Law.

The Massachusetts Department of Motor Vehicles considers a vehicle a lemon if it has a substantial defect that impairs the safety or ability to drive it and the car has not been repaired after a reasonable number of attempts, or the defects impact the market value of a new car.

General Eligibility Requirements

The Lemon Law covers new or leased vehicles for one year or 15,000 miles from the date of delivery, whichever comes first.

Terms of protection for used vehicles are based on how many miles are on the odometer at the time of sale.

The Lemon Law does not cover used motorcycles, vehicles used for business purposes, auto homes, off-road vehicles or boats. 

What Constitutes a ‘Lemon’ Vehicle?

Vehicle owners are likely covered under the Lemon Law for new, leased or used vehicles bought in Massachusetts from a licensed dealer when a vehicle has at least one defect that substantially impairs its use, safety, or market value if new. The vehicle must be used for personal or family purposes.

The defect must be discovered, and the dealer must be allowed a reasonable amount of time and up to three attempts to repair the same defect.

The vehicle  may also be covered under the law if it is out of service for 15 or more business days for repairs, even if there aren’t three separate repair attempts. 

When to Consider Enforcing Your Rights

Vehicle owners can initially pursue a refund directly through the dealer or manufacturer. There are several options available if the vehicle continues to have issues.

For new vehicles, the manufacturer may offer a refund for the vehicle, which would include the full contract price of the car.

The manufacturer may also offer a replacement vehicle. In this case, the manufacturer must also reimburse the owner for transfer of registration fees, sales tax resulting from the replacement, and any towing or rental charges resulting from the defect. 

If the vehicle continues to have issues, and the dealer or manufacturer refuses to cooperate, owners can seek mediation or file suit in court. Consumers also have the option to participate in the Massachusetts Lemon Law Arbitration Program

This arbitration program provides both parties an opportunity to make their case under oath. An arbitrator will ultimately determine whether or not the dealer has to refund the consumer.

Personnel from the Hanscom Legal Office are available to answer questions regarding members’ eligibility under the Massachusetts Lemon Law, rights and the steps needed to seek compensation.

Contact the Hanscom Legal Office at 781-225-1410.