The Massachusetts lemon law requires that a vehicle with a defect that “substantially impairs” its use, market value, or safety must be repaired to satisfactory condition within a reasonable number of attempts or days.
If the defect cannot be repaired within a reasonable number of attempts or days, 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.
Massachusetts Lemon Law Rules for New Cars
Massachusetts lemon law is specifically geared toward newer vehicles.
This means it applies to all new vehicles sold at car lots.
(New vehicles in Massachusetts are also subject to the Failed Inspection Lemon Law, which you’ll find more on below.)
Lemon Law Requirements for New Vehicles
The lemon law applies in Massachusetts if:
- The issue(s) with the vehicle “substantially impairs” its use, market value, or safety.
- 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 Massachusetts, 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
- Repurchase the vehicle for a full refund (minus a reasonable allowance for use)
Repair the car within a reasonable number of attempts
What constitutes a reasonable number of attempts to repair a vehicle in Massachusetts is four (4), three attempts plus one final attempt.
The exception to this is if the issue with the vehicle is a serious safety issue, likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, in which case federal law drops the number of failed repair attempts to two (2), one attempt plus one final attempt.
If the vehicle manufacturer cannot repair the vehicle after four attempts (two in the case of a serious safety defect), they must allow you to return it for an identical (or equivalent) vehicle or repurchase the vehicle for its original price.
Repair the car within a reasonable number of days
What constitutes a reasonable number of days in Massachusetts is 15 business days.
If your vehicle is in the shop more than 15 business 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 15 days don’t have to be consecutive. Instead, they are cumulative.
Any time your car is in the shop within the lemon law period counts toward your 15 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 and acceptable to you.
The manufacturer is responsible for any additional fees and taxes associated with the replacement, as well as incidental charges (such as towing and rental fees), and is not permitted to deduct an allowance for usage of the original vehicle.
Repurchase 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 repurchasing a lemon, dealers must refund the full buying price of the car (including all taxes and fees), interest payments on the vehicle loan, and incidental charges (such as towing and rental fees).
The manufacturer may, however, deduct a reasonable allowance for the time/mileage you were able to use the vehicle.
This allowance is calculated by a standard formula.
Massachusetts 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 main lemon law in Massachusetts.
This means a used vehicle is covered by the main lemon law (the same law for new cars) if:
- The original manufacturer’s warranty has passed to the new owner.
- The issue with the vehicle occurs within the lemon law rights period.
- The issue with the vehicle was not caused by misuse or modification by the original owner.
(Used vehicles in Massachusetts are also subject to the Failed Inspection Lemon Law, which you’ll find more on below.)
If you have a newer used vehicle still under its original warranty, this is your best line of defense against major defects.
But Massachusetts also has a lemon law specifically geared toward used vehicles.
Used vehicles that cost $700 or more with fewer than 125,000 miles on them are required to come with warranties based on their mileage in Massachusetts.
And these warranties are treated just like express warranties on new cars.
If the dealer (not the manufacturer) cannot repair the vehicle within a reasonable number of attempts (3) or reasonable number of days (11 business days), the dealer is obligated to take the car back and refund your money.
(A dealer may also offer to buy the car back instead of making repair attempts.
If you do not accept the offer, they are under no further obligation to repair the vehicle.)
When buying back a used vehicle under the MA used car lemon law, the dealer must refund all of the following:
- The full purchase price (including taxes, fees, finance charges)
- The actual trade-in value of your vehicle (they can also return your trade-in if they still have it)
- Insurance fees
- Extended warranty fees
- Towing costs up to 30 miles
- $15/day toward alternative transportation costs (starting on the 3rd day of repair)
The dealer may, however, deduct a reasonable allowance for use, which is calculated by a standard formula.
The used car lemon law in Massachusetts only applies to vehicles sold through licensed car dealers.
It does not apply to private-party sales.
Massachusetts Failed Inspection Lemon Law
Along with the new and used car lemon laws, Massachusetts has a third lemon law that covers ALL vehicles, new and used, sold by both dealers and private parties.
The Failed Inspection Lemon Law dictates that any vehicle sold in the state that fails to pass inspection may be returned within seven (7) days if the cost of repairs would be more than 10% of the purchase price.
In this instance, if a dealer refuses to take the car back and refund your money, you may apply for state arbitration (just like with the regular lemon law) or file a lawsuit against the seller.
If a private party refuses to take the car back and refund your money, you’ll have no choice but to file a lawsuit, as state arbitration is not available for private-party sales.
Massachusetts Lemon Law Time Limit
The lemon law rights period for new vehicles in Massachusetts is:
- 12 months (1 year)
- 15,000 miles
Whichever comes first.
(Or 7 days for the “Failed Inspection” law.)
You must first report the issue with the vehicle (take it in for repair) within this time period.
Repair attempts may extend beyond the coverage period, but you must contact the manufacturer (in writing) within 15 months of delivery of the vehicle to the original owner.
Massachusetts Lemon Law Time Limit For Used Cars
For used cars, the lemon law rights period is dependent on the length of the required warranty.
For more on used car coverage periods, see Massachusetts Used Car Warranty & Return Laws.
Any lemon law lawsuits through the court must be filed within 36 months (3 years) of delivery to the vehicle’s original owner, but should be filed as soon as possible.
How do I file a lemon law claim in Massachusetts?
Before filing a lemon law claim (new car) in Massachusetts, you must contact the manufacturer of the vehicle to try to get the issue resolved.
To do this, send a certified letter (within 15 months of the vehicle’s original delivery) to the manufacturer at the address provided in your vehicle’s warranty paperwork or owner’s manual with the following information:
- Your name and contact 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
- A statement that you are giving the manufacturer a final attempt repair
Upon receipt, the manufacturer must provide you with a reasonably accessible repair facility for their final attempt at repair.
The manufacturer/repair facility has seven (7) business days upon receipt of your letter to repair the defect with the vehicle.
If the repair facility fails to repair the vehicle to satisfactory condition, or the manufacturer fails to respond, you may apply for arbitration through the state or file a lawsuit in court.
You are not required to go through the manufacturer’s informal dispute settlement procedure before using state arbitration or filing a lawsuit, but it can simplify the process. (Manufacturers are bound by their arbitrators decisions, but you are not.)
If you do not want to use the manufacturer’s arbitrators (or don’t like the outcome), you can apply for arbitration through the state. State-run arbitration can also simplify the process, but, unlike with their own arbitrators, manufacturers are not bound by the state’s decision.
Lastly, if you do not want to go through arbitration (or are dissatisfied with the outcome), you can file a lawsuit against the car manufacturer in court.
If you need help with any part of the lemon law process in Massachusetts, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.
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 Massachusetts, the lemon law applies to leased vehicles that are new and under a manufacturer’s warranty.
Chucking A Lemon In Massachusetts
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 Massachusetts, 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.