Maryland’s Lemon Car Laws Explained

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One of my friends had a car that she loved but had to bring into the shop every three or four months, like clockwork, for one problem or another. This wasn’t some car she bought used on Ebay or some shady car dealership, this was a brand spanking new vehicle. I won’t slander the manufacturer by saying who made it but suffice it to say, the brothers on CarTalk have complained frequently about it’s expensive ball joints. So, knowing she’d been to the dealership so many times I wondered what the lemon law actually covers and what it means (in Maryland, the laws may differ for you wherever you are).

In order to qualify for protection, your car must be less than fifteen months old with less than 15,000 miles on it and either owned or leased by you and registered in Maryland. (If it’s registered elsewhere, check that state’s lemon laws) Now, this usually puts you within the manufacturer’s warranty so they should fix pretty much every problem you bring them. If they can’t, that’s when the lemon law protections come in.

First, write your dealer or car manufacturer a letter requesting the repair and send it via certified mail. If the manufacturer refuses to repair the problem with thirty days or if they do complete repairs and it “impairs the use” or “substantially reduces the market value” of the car, then you may qualify for a refund or replacement vehicle as long as the problem is from the following list:

The problem list is:

  • A brake or steering failure that was not corrected after the first repair attempt, and that causes the vehicle to fail Maryland’s safety inspection; or
  • Any one problem that substantially impairs the use and market value of the vehicle that was not corrected in four repair attempts; or
  • Any number of problems that substantially impair the use and market value of the vehicle that have caused it to be out of service for a cumulative total of 30 or more days.

    If you qualify, you’ll want to write a complaint to the manufacturer with the following information (sending it via certified mail!):

    • List the make, model, year and VIN of your vehicle.
    • Include the name of the dealership from which your automobile was purchased and the date of purchase.
    • Describe the problem you are having.
    • Describe what you have done to address the problem and include copies of repair orders and dates of repair attempts.

    If the manufacturer can’t correct the problem you outline within 30 days, they are required to repurchase or replace your car. If they repurchase it, they must cover the full purchase price plus license fees, registration, and any other government charges and they have the option of reducing it by 15% because you got to use the vehicle and a “reasonable allowance” for damage outside normal wear and tear. if you

    If your car is a lemon and the manufacturer is unable to correct the problem within 30 days of receiving your letter, the manufacturer must repurchase or replace your vehicle. If you previously contacted the manufacturer, you will want to send a follow-up letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, outlining your problem, the steps you have taken to resolve it and what action you want taken. (See sample letter C.)

    The manufacturer can replace your vehicle with a comparable one that is acceptable to you, or buy it back, whichever you prefer. The repurchase price you are offered should cover the full purchase price including license fees, registration fees and other similar governmental charges. The manufacturer can subtract up to 15 percent of the purchase price for your use of the vehicle, and a reasonable allowance for damage not attributed to normal wear and tear. At this point, I’d contact the Consumer Protection Division to get their help. If you need more information, the Maryland AG office has more information.

    Good luck!

    This is not legal advice in anyway, I was just trying to understand the laws to help out a friend.

    { 3 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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    3 Responses to “Maryland’s Lemon Car Laws Explained”

    1. CK says:

      Ok I’ll nitpick,
      slander is spoken
      libel is written

    2. Fred says:

      I read this and thought: Wow… that’s a *really* high bar to meet the lemon law requirements – and look at all the hassle you have to go through – certified mail, 30 days of inconvenience, etc. The dealer gets FOUR TRIES to fix your problem before it is considered a lemon?!? In my view, that’s just too much protection. After the second attempt, if the same problem exists, that should be good enough evidence. And further, a 15% reduction!!! That too is rediculous. If you’ve been inconvienced by as many as 4 repairs for the same issue or 30 days without your vehicle, the dealer/manufacturer should have to eat the cost of the car.

    3. jim says:

      CK – You’re right, I always write as if I was talking to someone, which is why I wrote slander… haha. It’s why I will write “I won’t say…” rather than “I won’t write…”

      I thought you were so disgusted with my rebate antics that you weren’t ever going to read again. 🙂

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