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Lemon Laws

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Every state now has some form of "lemon law," but the promise usually outweighs the results.

Manufacturers can be ordered to refund the purchase price of a new vehicle or replace a vehicle that is proven critically flawed. Such dramatic results are rare, however. In most states, you must first exhaust all other possible remedies. That means making a specified number of tries--typically three--at the dealership, then passing through the arbitration process without successful resolution.

You will have to retain a lawyer. To qualify for consideration, a car generally has to be inoperable for at least 30 days during its first 12 months or 12,000 miles. Details vary, so inquire at your state attorney general's office, a consumer protection agency, or the Center for Auto Safety.

Lemon laws typically stipulate that a manufacturer be given one last chance to remedy the complaint. Even if you "win," the automaker nearly always can deduct for the mileage you've put on the vehicle.

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