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What To Know About The Iowa Lemon Law (2023)

The Iowa lemon law dictates that a vehicle with a problem or defect that “renders the vehicle unfit, unreliable, or unsafe” or “significantly diminishes the value” must be repaired to satisfactory condition within a reasonable number of attempts or days.

If the manufacturer of the vehicle cannot repair it, the manufacturer must replace the vehicle with the same (or a similar enough) vehicle or accept a return of the vehicle for its original purchase price.

Iowa Lemon Law Rules for New Cars

man holds head next to broken down car

Iowa’s lemon law is specifically geared toward newer vehicles.

This means it applies to all new vehicles sold at car lots.

Lemon Law Requirements for New Vehicles

The lemon law applies in Iowa if:

  • The issue(s) with the vehicle “renders the vehicle unfit, unreliable, or unsafe” or “significantly diminishes the value.”
  • The issue(s) with the vehicle is covered by the vehicle’s express warranty.
  • The issue(s) with the vehicle occurs within the lemon law rights period.
  • 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 Iowa, 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 you
  • Accept a return of the vehicle for a full refund (minus a reasonable fee for use)

Repair the car within a reasonable number of attempts

What constitutes a reasonable number of attempts to repair a vehicle in Iowa is four (4), three attempts plus one final attempt.

The exception to this is if the issue with the vehicle is a serious safety, likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, in which case the number of failed repair attempts drop to two (2), one attempt plus one final attempt.

If the dealer/manufacturer cannot repair the vehicle after four attempts (two in the case of a serious safety defect), the manufacturer must allow you to return the vehicle for an identical (or comparable) vehicle or refund.

Repair the car within a reasonable number of days

What constitutes a reasonable number of days in Iowa is 20.

If your vehicle is in the shop more than 20 days with any number of serious warranty-covered defects, it’s considered a lemon and the manufacturer must allow you to return the vehicle for an identical (or like) vehicle or refund.

These 20 days do not have to be consecutive. Instead, they are cumulative.

Any time your car is in the shop within the lemon law period counts toward your 20 days, even if they occur months apart.

Replace the car with a “substantially identical” vehicle

If the 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 request a replacement vehicle.

This replacement vehicle must be comparable enough to the original vehicle (same make, model, have the same features, etc.) and acceptable to you.

The manufacturer is responsible for any additional fees and taxes associated with the replacement.

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 instead.

When refunding a lemon, dealers must refund the full buying price of the car (including all taxes and fees) and may be responsible for incidental charges (such as rental car and towing fees), at the decision of the arbitrator.

The manufacturer may, however, deduct an allowance for the time/mileage you did use the vehicle.

This usage amount is calculated by the arbitrator.

Iowa Lemon Law Rules for Used Cars

Any vehicle that falls within the lemon law rights period and is still under its original warranty is covered by the lemon law in Iowa.

This means a used vehicle is covered by the lemon law if:

  • The original manufacturer’s warranty has passed to the new owner.
  • The issue with the vehicle occurs within 24 months or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.
  • The issue with the vehicle was not caused by misuse or modification by the original owner.

Iowa Lemon Law Time Limit

The lemon law coverage period in Iowa is:

  •  24 months (2 years)
  • 24,000 miles.

Whichever comes first.

You should initiate the lemon law process (contact the manufacturer for final repair) during this time period.

If you are dissatisfied with the manufacturer’s repair and informal dispute resolution fails, you have one year after any of the following to file a lawsuit in court:

  • Expiration of the vehicle’s express warranty
  • 24 months (2 years) after delivery to the original owner
  • 24,000 miles

Whichever comes first.

So, if the vehicle comes with a one-year (1 year) express warranty, you have one year after the expiration of that warranty, or two years total, to make any claim through the court system.

How do I file a lemon law claim in Iowa?

Before filing a lemon law claim in Iowa, you must contact the manufacturer of the vehicle to try to get the issue resolved.

To do this, send a copy of Iowa’s Motor Vehicle Defect Notification Form to the vehicle’s manufacturer at the address provided in your vehicle’s warranty paperwork or owner’s manual.

(You can also just send a certified letter, but make sure to include all the information on the Motor Vehicle Defect Notification Form.)

Upon receipt, the manufacturer has 10 days to respond with the name of a reasonably accessible repair facility for their final attempt at repair.

If the repair facility fails to repair the vehicle to satisfactory condition, or the manufacturer fails to respond, you must proceed with the manufacturer’s certified dispute program as explained in your vehicle’s paperwork before you may file a lawsuit.

(If the manufacturer’s dispute program is not certified in the state, you may proceed with their dispute program, but it’s not required. Legally, you can skip straight to filing a lawsuit. You can see which manufacturer’s programs are certified in the state at Manufacturer’s National Offices & Dispute Resolution Programs.)

If you need help with any part of the lemon law process, you can contact the Iowa 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 Iowa, the lemon law applies to leased vehicles that are new and under a manufacturer’s warranty.

Chucking A Lemon In Iowa

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 Iowa, 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 law claim will be.