The lemon law in Maryland dictates that a vehicle with a major defect that substantially impairs the use, safety, or market value of that vehicle must be repaired to satisfactory condition within a reasonable number of attempts or days.
If the manufacturer cannot repair the vehicle, it must either replace the vehicle with the same (or similar enough) vehicle or accept a return of the vehicle for its original purchase price.
Maryland Lemon Law Rules for New Cars
Maryland’s lemon law is specifically geared toward the newest vehicles.
This means it applies to all new vehicles sold at car lots.
Lemon Law Requirements for New Vehicles
The lemon law applies in Maryland if:
- The issue(s) with the vehicle “substantially impairs” its use or market value.
- 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 Maryland, 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
- Buy back the vehicle for a full refund (minus a “reasonable allowance” for the mileage put on the vehicle)
Repair the car within a reasonable number of attempts
What constitutes a reasonable number of attempts to repair a vehicle in Maryland is four (4), three attempts and one final attempt.
The exception to this is if the issue with the vehicle is a serious safety issue involving the braking or steering system, which reduces the number of failed attempts to one (1) attempt.
If the dealer/manufacturer cannot repair the vehicle after four attempts (one in the case of a serious safety defect), the manufacturer must allow you to return the car 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 Maryland is 30.
If a vehicle is in the shop more than 30 days with any number of substantial issues, it’s considered a lemon and the 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. Instead, they are cumulative.
Any time your car is in the shop within the lemon law period counts toward your 30 days, even if they are 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 similar enough to the original vehicle (same make, model, have the same features, etc.) and acceptable to you.
The manufacturer must pay any additional taxes and fees associated with the exchange, such as licensing and registration fees.
Buy back 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), minus a “reasonable allowance” for usage and any assessed damage.
This allowance cannot be more than 15% of the vehicle’s purchase price.
Maryland Lemon Law Rules for Used Cars
Used vehicles are covered by Maryland’s lemon law if the issue(s) with the vehicle occur within the lemon law period and the vehicle is still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
Maryland Lemon Law Time Limit
The lemon law applies to vehicles in Maryland for the first 18,000 miles or 24 months (2 years), whichever comes first.
The period to file a lemon law suit in the state is three (3) years.
How do I file a lemon law claim in Maryland?
Before filing a lemon law claim in Maryland, you must contact the manufacturer of the vehicle to try to get the issue resolved.
To do this for a regular (non-safety issue) with the vehicle, send a certified letter (after the third failed repair attempt) to the address provided in your vehicle’s warranty paperwork or owner’s manual.
Include the following information:
- Vehicle VIN number
- Vehicle make, model and year
- Dealership from which the vehicle was purchased
- Date the vehicle was purchased
- The issue(s) with the vehicle
- A list of repair attempts with copies of work orders/receipts
The manufacturer will provide you with the name of a reasonably accessible repair facility for their final attempt at repair (or may just agree to refund or replace the vehicle).
They have 30 days from receipt of your letter to satisfactorily repair the vehicle.
If the manufacturer fails to repair the vehicle to a satisfactory condition, and refuses a replacement or refund, you may proceed with the manufacturer’s informal dispute settlement procedure (arbitration) as explained in your vehicle’s paperwork, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, or file a lawsuit.
You are not required to participate in dispute settlement or arbitration in Maryland, but it can ease the process.
And you never have to accept the arbitrator’s decision.
You can still file a lawsuit if you don’t like their ruling.
The Consumer Protection Division can also provide mediation.
Filing For Serious Safety Issues
For serious safety issues, the process for filing a lemon law claim in Maryland is slightly different.
You do not need to give the manufacturer a final attempt at repair.
Instead, you may submit your vehicle to a safety inspection at a licensed inspection station.
If the vehicle fails the inspection after a single repair attempt, it is considered a lemon.
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?
In Maryland, the lemon law applies to leased vehicles that are new and under a manufacturer’s warranty.
Chucking A Lemon In Maryland
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 Maryland, 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.