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What To Know About The Michigan Lemon Law (2023)

The lemon law in Michigan is otherwise known as the “New Motor Vehicles Warranties” act.

The law dictates that any vehicle covered by a manufacturer’s warranty with a serious defect covered by that manufacturer’s warranty must be repaired.

If the defect cannot be repaired in a satisfactory manner, the vehicle must be replaced or returned with the sale price refunded.

Michigan Lemon Law Rules for New Cars

man stresses over broken down vehicle

Michigan’s lemon law is geared toward new vehicles with manufacturer’s warranties still in effect.

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

Lemon Law Requirements for New Vehicles

The lemon law applies in Michigan if:

  • Your vehicle is still under the original manufacturer’s warranty and the issue you are having with the vehicle is covered by that warranty.
  • The issue you are having with the vehicle impairs the use (including the safety) or value of that vehicle.
  • The vehicle came with the issue. (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 Michigan, 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 car for a full refund

Repair the car within a reasonable number of attempts

What constitutes a reasonable number of attempts to repair a singular issue with a vehicle in Michigan is four (4), three attempts plus one final attempt, within a two-year period.

If the dealer/manufacturer cannot correct the defect after four attempts, they 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 to repair an issue with a vehicle in Michigan is 30.

If a vehicle is in the shop for more than 30 days during the warranty term or the first year of ownership (whichever comes first), the dealer/manufacturer must allow you to return the vehicle for an identical (or like) vehicle or refund.

The 30 days do not have to be for the same issue, they can be for multiple different issues, and do not have to be consecutive. Instead, they are cumulative.

Any time your car is in the shop within the first year or during your 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 vehicle, you may choose a replacement.

This replacement vehicle must be like 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 opt for a refund from the manufacturer instead.

The manufacturer must allow you the option of a refund. They cannot demand you take another vehicle.

When refunding the vehicle, the manufacturer must refund the full buying price of the car and any incidental charges (including all taxes, fees, rental car expenses, interest paid on the loan, etc.), minus a deduction for period of usage and assessed damage to the vehicle.

The usage part of this deduction is calculated by a set formula and dependent on how many miles you put on the vehicle.

Damage assessment is less formalized.

So, if the manufacturer agrees to a refund, but you don’t like the amount they are offering, you may have to continue to arbitration.

Michigan Lemon Law Rules for Used Cars

All vehicles within the lemon law time period that are under a manufacturer’s warranty are subject to the lemon law in Michigan.

This means very new previously-owned vehicles with low mileage may still be eligible.

The lemon law applies to used cars in Michigan if:

  • The vehicle is still under the original manufacturer’s warranty.
  • The vehicle is still within one year of its delivery date to the original owner.
  • The original warranty passed to the new owner.
  • The issue with the vehicle is covered by the warranty or impairs the use or value of the vehicle.
  • The issue with the vehicle was not caused by improper use by the former owner.

What about used cars with no warranty?

If a used car has no warranty in effect, or is beyond the one year period after delivery, the lemon law doesn’t apply.

The idea behind a lemon law is that it protects consumers from real “lemons,” those vehicles that are nonoperational, unsafe, or damaged right off the manufacturing line.

Used vehicles with no warranty are sold “as is” and it is your responsibility as a consumer to do your due diligence before buying.

This doesn’t mean you don’t have some recourse if you get a bad car. You can always attempt to return the car or file a complaint with the Attorney General.

You just won’t find your justice under the lemon law.

Michigan Lemon Law Time Limit

To be eligible for restitution under the lemon law in Michigan, owners must report the issue with the vehicle to the dealer/manufacturer:

  • Within one year of taking possession of the vehicle, or
  • Within the term of the manufacturer’s warranty

Whichever comes first.

The defect only needs to be reported within this time frame.

After the first report of the issue, the eligibility period for the lemon law extends to two years, during which any failed attempt to fix the same issue counts as a repair attempt.

If the vehicle cannot be fixed within four attempts over the next two years, it’s still considered a lemon and you are eligible for a refund or replacement.

How do I file a lemon law claim in Michigan?

Before filing a lemon law claim in Michigan, you must give the vehicle manufacturer a final attempt to repair the vehicle.

To inform the manufacturer of their final attempt at repair, you must send a certified letter with the details of your vehicle and all previous repair attempts. (You can do this after the third attempt at fixing the issue or after the vehicle has been in the shop for a total of 25 days.)

The manufacturer will contact you with the repair facility they choose for their final attempt and will have five days to complete the repair.

If the facility does not repair the vehicle to an acceptable condition within five days, or you do not hear back from the manufacturer, you can continue to the arbitration phase.

Information on filing for arbitration should be available in the warranty paperwork of your vehicle.

If you cannot find this information, contact the Better Business Bureau Auto Line. The Better Business Bureau can help you directly with arbitration or direct you to the appropriate arbitrator.

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 Michigan, the lemon law applies to leased vehicles that are new and under a manufacturer’s warranty.

Chucking A Lemon In Michigan

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 Michigan, 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.