Skip to main content

My New Car is a Lemon

Authored By: Legal Services Alabama


Alabama law gives rights to people who buy defective new cars. This article talks about those rights. To learn about rights buyers of used cars have, see Buying a Used Car.

Is the car I bought covered?

  • Yes, if you bought a car or small truck to drive on the road.
  • If you only use a car or truck for business, it is not covered.

How long is my car covered?

  • For one year after you got the car or for the first 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.

How can I tell if my problem is covered?

  • Look at the warranty that came with your new car.
  • If the warranty covers the faulty part, your problem is covered if:
    • The problem makes the car harder to use, less safe or worth less money,
    • You did not cause the problem.

What do I do if something is wrong with my car?

  • First, see if your dealer will fix the problem for free.
  • Give your dealer something in writing saying what is wrong. Keep a copy.
  • If your dealer is an "authorized dealer" for the manufacturer, giving the dealer written notice should be as good as giving the manufacturer notice directly.

What if the dealer will not fix it for free? What if the dealer tries to fix it, but the problem remains?

  • You have to send a letter to the manufacturer.
  • You have to send the letter by certified mail.
  • Keep a copy of your letter and the certified mail papers.

What do I say in the letter?

  • Identify your car. Use the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) listed in your car papers.
  • Describe the problem.
  • Say what you have done to try and get the problem fixed.

What happens then?

  • In seven days, the manufacturer must tell you where to get your car fixed for free.
  • The repair place cannot be too far from your home.
  • In 14 days or less, repairs should correct the problem.

What happens if the problem comes back?

  • If the car is less than two years old and has less than 24,000 miles, you can get it fixed again for free.
  • You need to go to an authorized dealer or let the manufacturer know.
  • If you take the car in three times, and the problem still isn't fixed, this shows the problem can't be fixed.
  • If you are without the car for a total of 30 days while repairs are being made, this shows the problem can't be fixed.

What if the problem can't be fixed?

  • The manufacturer must let you choose between getting a comparable new car and getting a refund.
  • You have to return your car.

How much would my refund be?

  • You get most of your money back after a reasonable allowance for use.
    • Start with the full contract price, including all dealer prep and other charges.
    • Add sales tax, license and registration fees.
    • Add finance charges you had after first reporting the problem.
    • Add in what you had to pay to get around while you were without the car.
  • You can compute the allowance by taking the mileage when the problem came up, dividing it by 100,000, then multiplying the result by the full purchase price.

What if the manufacturer does not give me a new car or a refund?

  • You have the right to sue the manufacturer.
  • You may first have to send another letter by certified mail again explaining the problem.
  • You may have to give the manufacturer one more chance to fix the car.
  • You will have to go through any dispute process the manufacturer has.
  • If you still don't get a working car or your money, you may be able to sue the manufacturer. The Alabama Lemon Law says that if you win, the manufacturer has to pay your lawyer's fee.
  • Most times when you buy a new car, you will have to sign an arbitration agreement.
    • This may mean you will have to take your case to an arbitrator instead of going to court.
  • You cannot sue the dealer under the Alabama Lemon Law.

How much time do I have to sue?

  • Three years from the day on which you bought the car.

Reviewed August 2008 offers legal information, not legal advice. This website provides information on your rights and options. However, the site does not apply the law to your personal facts. For legal advice, you should call a lawyer. To apply for free legal services in Alabama, call the Legal Services Alabama office that is closest to where you live OR call toll-free 1-866-456-4995. You can also apply online HERE.

Last Review and Update: Aug 20, 2008
Back to top