How to Document a Lemon Law Claim

If you believe you have purchased a "lemon" vehicle, and that your state's lemon law may apply, it is important to be vigilant when seeking repairs, and keep good records of repairs performed and when your vehicle is in for service.

While new car dealers like return business and will usually do their best to repair a car to satisfy their customer, dealers and manufacturers are very aware of lemon laws and try to avoid their application. In the few states with used car lemon laws, a dealership won't have the backing of the manufacturer, and may attempt to play games with service times and records to make it seem like lemon laws do not apply.

Even if your vehicle does not qualify for replacement under your state's lemon laws, careful documentation may permit you to bring a breach of warranty claim or to get relief under another consumer protection law. Documentation is crucial. Without proper documentation, even the best claim can fail.

Keep Good Repair Records

Keep a record of any trouble with your vehicle, starting with the very first repair.

  • Make a note of the odometer reading when your car goes in for repairs;

  • Note the date and time when you take the car in and get it back;

  • When you talk to service people, or the manufacturer's customer service representatives, record the date, the person's name, and make a note of what they said;

  • Get copies of any warranty repair orders; and

  • Get an invoice for every car repair (even when there is no charge for the repair.

If the dealership or manufacturer won't give you paperwork, record that fact. If you have a recurring problem with your car, make sure that you or the dealership records on your request for repairs that it is the same problem you had before. Don't let the dealership claim that you in fact had several different problems with your car to avoid the application of the law, based upon what they write on the repair records.

Maintain Your Vehicle

Make sure you also maintain your vehicle, and engage in appropriate use. Keep copies of your maintenance records. Manufacturers and dealerships may try to avoid responsibility for lemon vehicles by blaming the problems on the purchaser.

Check Technical Service Bulletins

Ask for Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) relating to your car. Car dealers will not ordinarily provide copies of TSBs unless they are requested. However, TSBs can provide valuable information about common problems with a particular make and year of vehicle, and how they are best repaired. Some TSBs are available online from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), although their database is not complete.

Let The Manufacturer Attempt Repair

In order to succeed with a lemon claim, you must permit an attempt to repair the vehicle. For a new car lemon claim you must give the manufacturer the opportunity, and in most cases repeated opportunities, to repair the problem with your car.

You may be angry with the manufacturer for selling you a lemon vehicle, but if you wish to succeed with a lemon law claim you must let the manufacturer try to fix the problem. If you don't permit the attempt to repair the vehicle, you will lose your lemon law protections.

Keep Copies of Correspondence

If you send letters to the dealership or manufacturer about your vehicle or receive letters from them, keep a copy of each letter in your file. When you make a claim with the manufacturer or apply for arbitration, make sure you keep a copy of any letters or forms you submit in support of your claim.

Copyright © 2003 Aaron Larson, All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article, except as otherwise authorized in writing by the author of the article you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.

This article was last reviewed or amended on Apr 5, 2018.