New York’s Lemon Law Explained

If you are looking to purchase a used car and are contemplating spending extra money in order to get the dealer’s warranty, read this article to determine if the car you are looking at is required by law to be warranted by the dealer for no additional charge.  Similarly, if you have recently purchased a used car which was not covered by a dealer’s warranty and you have immediately encountered problems with the vehicle, read this article to find out if the dealer may be required to fix the problem.

First of all, in order to be eligible under New York’s Lemon Law (contained in NY General Business Law § 198-b), you must have purchased the vehicle from a “dealer.”  In this context, a dealer is a person or a business which sells or offers to sell (or lease) at least three used vehicles in the preceding twelve months.  While this is sure to include virtually every used car lot, it more than likely does not include a private person selling through the classifieds.

The next requirement is based upon the mileage of the vehicle:

  • From 0 – 36,000 miles the warranty period must be at least 90 days or 4,000 miles, whichever comes first;
  • From 36,000 to 80,000 miles the warranty period must be at least 60 days or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first;
  • From 80,000 – 100,000 miles, the warranty period must be at least 30 days or 1,000 miles, whichever comes first.  (Note that from 100,001 miles and up, there is no coverage under the lemon law.)

Finally, as far as coverage, the warranty is required to include at least the engine, transmission, drive axle, brakes, radiator, steering, alternator, generator, starter, and ignition system excluding the battery.

According to the law, the information in the preceding paragraphs is required to be given in writing by the dealer.  But what if you bought a car that should be covered but you were never offered a written warranty, or even worse, in the midst of the confusion of all the paper work, you signed something that said you waived the right to a warranty?  Don’t worry; if the car you purchased fell into one of the categories above, it is covered, even if the dealer had you sign a waiver or did not give you the warranty in writing.

What does it mean?  Basically, a warranty under the lemon law is treated just like any other warranty, the dealer must either correct the defect, have someone else correct the defect, or reimburse you for the repairs.  If the dealer fails to take any action to correct a qualifying defect, they maybe required to accept the return of the vehicle and refund the full purchase price.

Some fine print.  The warranty period does not count against time that the vehicle is in the possession of the dealer or the dealer’s agent for repairs.  Also, while the repairs do not have to be undertaken during the coverage period, the dealer must be given notice of the defect during the coverage period.  Finally, there are a number of acts which may exclude coverage including lack of customary maintenance, collision, abuse, neglect etc.

In conclusion, the used vehicle you are about to purchase or may have recently purchased may be covered by a statutory warranty.  The eligibility and period of coverage is based primarily on the mileage of the vehicle when you purchase it, not its age or cost.  Since the coverage periods are not extensive, if you are having problems with the vehicle you have to act immediately in order to protect your rights.  If you have questions or need assistance enforcing your rights, call or email us today.