The Wisconsin Lemon Law provides important protections for all consumers who buy a new motor vehicle in Wisconsin. If your new motor vehicle suffers from serious defects impacting its use, value or safety, you may have a Lemon entitling you to a refund.
You may have a Lemon if your new vehicle suffers from a defect covered under the warranty and:
- The dealer fails to fix the defect in four attempts
- If your new vehicle suffers one or more serious defects covered under the warranty and it is out of service for 30 or more days during your first year of ownership
- Or if your new vehicle suffers a serious problem covered by the warranty which is presented to the dealership for repair within the first year of ownership and the problem continues
If your new vehicle qualifies as a Lemon, you are entitled to a comparable new replacement vehicle or a refund of the purchase price of your vehicle, including tax, title license fees, all amounts paid at point of sale, plus all interest paid and collateral costs. Your refund may be subject to a reasonable allowance for use deduction as defined under the Lemon Law.
The Lemon Law is intended to be a self-enforcing consumer protection statute. However, car, truck, motorcycle and RV manufacturers often fail to follow the law. If a manufacturer fails to comply with the Lemon Law in your case, you are entitled to reimbursement for your legal fees and costs by the manufacturer.
The Lemon Law covers all new motor vehicles delivered in Wisconsin including:
- And RVs
The lemon law covers new motor vehicles regardless of whether they are owned by a business, personally owned or owned by a governmental body.
When Is a Vehicle Considered a “Lemon?”
Under Wisconsin’s Lemon Law, there are four criteria for determining whether a motor vehicle meets the definition of being a “lemon.”
To be considered a “lemon,” a vehicle must have a defect that is considered a “nonconformity” and is covered under the vehicle’s warranty, and it must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- The dealer failed to fix the same defect within four attempts to do so
- The vehicle is out of service because of one of more defects at least 30 days during the first year of ownership
- The problem continues despite the vehicle being presented to the dealership for repair within the first year of ownership
What Type of Vehicle is Covered Under Wisconsin's Lemon Law?
Notably, the lemon law applies to:
- All privately owned motor vehicles, including motorcycles and RVs, as well as
- Commercial motor vehicles, such as semi-trucks, delivery trucks, cargo vans, and more.
Does Lemon Law in Wisconsin Apply to Used Vehicles?
It is important to note that Wisconsin’s Lemon Law does not apply to vehicles purchased used. However, vehicles purchased used may be covered by the federal Magnuson-Moss Act, the Lemon Law's federal counterpart. In fact, even if your vehicle doesn't qualify for relief under the Wisconsin Lemon Law, you may have a claim under the federal Magnuson-Moss Act.
Our firm is one of the preeminent lemon law firms in Wisconsin. Our lemon law attorneys have successfully prosecuted lemon law and Magnuson-Moss cases as well as other warranty claims throughout Wisconsin in state and federal court, at the trial court and appellate levels.
Unlike some national firms that claim expertise in the lemon law and Magnuson-Moss cases, our firm is right here in Wisconsin. At our firm your case will get the individual attention it needs from an experienced lawyer to maximize the refund or other relief you are entitled to.
Are Vehicles Purchased Out of State Covered?
Wisconsin has one of the strongest lemon laws in the United States. But often, Wisconsin consumers are enticed to buy new motor vehicles out of state.
If you purchase a new motor vehicle from an out of state dealer and take delivery out of state, you will not be covered by Wisconsin's Lemon Law. Wisconsin's Lemon Law covers motor vehicles, including RVs, motorcycles and large trucks that are purchased from a Wisconsin dealership or are delivered to the consumer in Wisconsin.
If you purchase the vehicle out of state and take delivery in Wisconsin, you are covered by Wisconsin's Lemon Law. Likewise, if you purchase the vehicle from a Wisconsin dealership, but take delivery out of state, you are still covered under Wisconsin's Lemon Law.
The consequences of buying from an out of state dealer and taking delivery out of state can be very severe when you experience problems with your vehicle. For example, if you buy a vehicle in Illinois and take delivery there, its lemon law doesn't require the manufacturer to pay your attorney fees when you win your lemon law case. Under Wisconsin's Lemon Law, if you win your case in court, the manufacturer pays your attorney fees.
Practically speaking, Illinois new motor vehicle buyers are left with almost no real consumer protection, even if they are residents of Wisconsin. Many other states' lemon laws have other serious weaknesses which hurt consumers.
Keep this in mind if you are a Wisconsin resident thinking of buying a new motor vehicle. If you have serious problems with your new purchase, buying out of state could cost you.
What Is a “Nonconformity?”
A nonconformity is a defect or condition, covered by the warranty significantly impairing a vehicle’s use, value or safety. A nonconformity may substantially impair use, value, or safety even if the vehicle is providing simple transportation.
Some examples of defects and conditions that may qualify as nonconformities include:
- Persistent oil leaks
- Defective warning lights
- Brake failure
- Failure to start/ignition problems
- Faulty accelerators
- Engine problems
- Transmission problems
- Electrical problems
- Check engine lights
- Backup camera problems
- Drivability problems
- Radiator problems
- Doors latching problems
- Computer problems
- Defective infotainment systems
Ultimately, whether or not an issue constitutes a nonconformity is something typically decided during litigation. Often, this involves the use of expert engineers, certified mechanics, and other professionals. At Lawton Cates, our attorneys work alongside industry experts to investigate lemon law claims and obtain the evidence to prove our clients’ cases.
What Compensation Is Available for Vehicle Owners?
If you purchased a lemon, you have the right to receive:
- A replacement vehicle
- Or a full refund for the price of the vehicle
- And any tax, title, or license fees you paid at the time of purchase
You are also entitled to be reimbursed for any interest you have paid on the vehicle, along with collateral costs. However, note that your refund may be subject to a “reasonable allowance for use” deduction, which is strictly limited by Wisconsin’s Lemon Law.
Most people choose to receive a refund, as the stress and frustration of repeated vehicle problems and repairs can be extremely taxing. Additionally, receiving a refund is often far less time-consuming than waiting for the manufacturer to locate and provide a replacement vehicle. That being said, there are several steps involved in requesting a refund for a lemon.
How Do You Recover a Refund for a Lemon?
To recover a refund for your vehicle, you must do the following:
- Offer to transfer the title to the manufacturer
- Provide required information on the Wisconsin DOT’s Motor Vehicle Lemon Law Notice and Nonconformity Report (MV2691)
- Receive a refund from the manufacturer within 30 days
- Upon receiving the refund, return the vehicle and sign over the title to the manufacturer
If you financed the vehicle, and the bank or finance entity currently holds the vehicle title as security, it will transfer the title to the manufacturer once the security interest has been satisfied.
If the dealer or seller refuses to comply with the Lemon Law, you may take legal action. Under the law, you are also entitled to reimbursement for legal fees, as well as manufacturer costs and other miscellaneous expenses if your case is successful.
What to Do If You Suspect You Have a Lemon
If you believe that you have purchased a lemon, you can begin the process of seeking a replacement vehicle or full refund on your own. However, we strongly recommend that you work with an experienced attorney, from Lawton Cates.
Our attorneys will be able to help you navigate the complicated legal processes involved, complete and submit all necessary paperwork, and, if necessary, litigate your case in court. Since 1958, our firm has been representing the rights of consumers throughout the state of Wisconsin.
We offer personalized and attentive legal service with an emphasis on achieving optimum results. We are available to answer your questions and address any concerns you may have during a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.
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