The lemon law, or New Vehicle Buyer Protection Act, in Illinois dictates that any new vehicle covered by a warranty that fails to conform to that warranty must be repaired to conform to the warranty.
If the manufacturer is unable to conform the vehicle to their express written warranty, they must either replace the vehicle with an identical or comparable vehicle or allow the buyer to return the vehicle for a full refund.
Illinois Lemon Law Rules for New Cars
The lemon law in Illinois is aimed at new vehicles with manufacturer’s warranties intact.
This means it applies to all new vehicles sold at car lots.
Lemon Law Requirements for New Vehicles
The lemon law applies in Illinois if:
- Your vehicle is still under the original manufacturer’s warranty.
- The issue you are having with the vehicle is covered by that warranty.
- The issue you are having with the vehicle “substantially impairs” the use, value, or safety of the vehicle.
- The vehicle came with the issue(s). (i.e. You didn’t drive it off the lot and immediately sideswipe a curb, jacking up the running board or suspension.)
If your car meets the definition of a “lemon” in Illinois, the car dealership/manufacturer is required to do one of the following things:
- Repair the car within a reasonable number of attempts
- Repair the car within a reasonable number of days
- Replace the car with an identical or equivalent vehicle that is acceptable to the buyer
- Accept a return of the vehicle for a full refund
Repair the car within a reasonable number of attempts
What constitutes a reasonable number of attempts to repair a nonconformity with a vehicle’s warranty in Illinois is four (4).
If the dealer/manufacturer cannot correct a nonconformity after four attempts within the statutory warranty period (one year), the dealer must allow you to return the car for an identical (or comparable) vehicle or refund.
If the issue with the vehicle is one that can lead to serious injury or death, federal law (the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act) reduces the number of failed attempts to one.
Repair the car within a reasonable number of days
What constitutes a reasonable number of days in Illinois is 30.
If your vehicle is in the shop for more than 30 days for any number of defects within the statutory warranty period, the dealer/manufacturer must allow you to return the vehicle for an identical (or like) vehicle or refund.
These 30 days do not have to be consecutive. They are cumulative. Any time your car is in the shop within the warranty period counts toward your 30 days, even if they occur months apart.
Replace the car with an identical vehicle
If the dealer/manufacturer cannot repair the vehicle within the allotted number of attempts or days, they must allow you to return it.
When you return the car, you may opt for a replacement vehicle.
This replacement vehicle must be similar enough to the original vehicle (same make, model, have the same features, etc.) and acceptable to you.
The manufacturer is responsible for any additional taxes and fees associated with the exchange.
Accept a return of the vehicle for a full refund
If you do not want a replacement vehicle after your first vehicle turns out to be a lemon, you may request a refund from the manufacturer instead.
When refunding a lemon car, manufacturers must refund the full buying price of the car (including fees and all collateral expenses, such as rental car fees and interest paid on the loan).
This refund does not, however, include the sales tax paid on the vehicle, though the seller may apply to get the sales tax refunded.
If you want a refund on the sales tax, you may have to continue to arbitration or seek restitution through the courts.
Illinois Lemon Law Rules for Used Cars
The lemon law in Illinois does not cover used vehicles, regardless of their warranty status.
Illinois Lemon Law Time Limit
The statutory warranty period in Illinois is one year or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first, and all service must occur during that period.
To be eligible for mediation under the lemon law, an owner must take their vehicle in for service four (4) times or their vehicle must be in the shop for repair for 30 days:
- Within one year of taking possession of the vehicle, or
- Within the first 12,000 miles of operation
Whichever comes first.
The statute of limitations for filing a lemon law claim is 18 months after delivery of the vehicle.
This is a very strict time frame compared to most state’s lemon laws.
How do I file a lemon law claim in Illinois?
Lemon law claims must be made through the manufacturer’s designated contract dispute representative.
Before filing for arbitration of a lemon law claim in Illinois, you must allow the vehicle manufacturer one final repair attempt.
To do this, send a certified letter to the manufacturer at the address found in the vehicle’s owner’s manual with the following:
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
- A list of the issues with the vehicle
- A list of all previous repair attempts
You can do this after three failed repair attempts or one attempt in the case of an issue that can cause serious injury or death.
The manufacturer will contact you with the repair facility they choose for their final attempt at repair.
If their facility of choice fails to repair the vehicle to an acceptable condition, or you do not hear back from the manufacturer, you can continue to the arbitration phase.
Information on filing for arbitration should be included in the vehicle warranty.
If you cannot find this information, contact your nearest Consumer Fraud Hotline of the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
General Lemon Law FAQ
To further your understanding of lemon laws, here are some frequently asked questions about how they pertain to vehicles.
What is a lemon law?
A lemon law is a law that protects consumers from defective products or “lemons,” generally by enforcement of a warranty.
What is a lemon car?
“Lemon car” meaning varies slightly from state to state, but, in general, if a new car has a defect the dealer or manufacturer cannot fix, that car is a lemon.
Defects in lemon cars typically affect the operation or safety of a vehicle, but not always. Structural issues that affect that value of a car are also covered.
Is there a federal lemon law?
There is no federal lemon law specifically geared toward vehicles.
However, there is a federal warranty act called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act which protects consumers from false or misleading warranties and makes warranties easier to enforce.
Since cars sold by dealerships typically come with full warranties, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act applies to them.
This act serves as the basis for state-specific lemon laws.
What’s in the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (as it applies to vehicles)?
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act includes several key points that pertain to vehicle warranties. These points are:
- No product is required to have a warranty (and many used cars don’t).
- The terms of a warranty must be fully disclosed in simple, understandable language.
- Any ambiguity in the language of a warranty is held against the warrantor (in this case, the manufacturer or dealer).
- Warrantors cannot require only branded parts be used with their products for a warranty to remain valid (Ford can’t require only Ford parts be used on your vehicle).
- Service contracts must follow these same rules.
Basically, if you feel like you’ve been duped by a warranty, you may have a case under the Magnuson-Moss Act.
And if your vehicle comes with a “full warranty”:
- A dealer/manufacturer must repair any defect for free within a reasonable amount of time/reasonable number of attempts
Or, if the dealer/manufacturer cannot repair the vehicle, they must:
- Replace the vehicle with an exact-match vehicle or allow you to return the vehicle for a full refund (including all taxes and fees)
Does the federal lemon law cover used cars?
If the used cars come with warranties, it does.
The Magnuson-Moss Act is not directed toward products themselves, but the warranties which cover them.
So, if you bought a used car that came with both a defect AND a warranty that covers that defect, the dealer must either repair your vehicle (in a satisfactory manner).
If they fail to do so, you can seek restitution under the Magnuson-Moss Act.
You may be able to come to an agreement with the dealer through arbitration, but, more likely, you will have to take the matter to court.
Does the lemon law apply to leased vehicles?
Yes. In Illinois, the lemon law applies to leased vehicles that are new and under a manufacturer’s warranty.
Chucking A Lemon In Illinois
When you buy a new car, whether you really need one or are just looking for an upgrade, there’s nothing worse than getting it home only to discover it’s a non-functional dud.
But manufacturers shouldn’t be shipping dud cars to dealerships and dealerships shouldn’t be putting dud cars out on their lots.
That’s the point of lemon laws, to ensure new vehicles driven off of car lots are safe, functional, and free from major defects.
So, if you think you’ve gotten a lemon car in Illinois, you shouldn’t accept it and you shouldn’t delay.
You do have recourse, and the sooner you bring the issue to the dealer’s and manufacturer’s attention, the stronger your “lemon” claim will be.