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What To Know About The Missouri Lemon Law (2023)

The Missouri lemon law, officially called The Missouri New Vehicles Warranty Law, dictates that a vehicle with a major defect that makes the vehicle non-compliant with the express manufacturer’s warranty must be repaired to satisfactory condition within a reasonable number of attempts or days.

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

Missouri Lemon Law Rules for New Cars

man stranded on the side of the road

Missouri’s lemon law is specifically aimed at new vehicles.

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

Lemon Law Requirements for New Vehicles

The lemon law applies in Missouri if:

  • The issue with the vehicle makes it non-conformant with the express written warranty.
  • The issue with the vehicle seriously impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle.
  • The issue with the vehicle occurs within the term of the manufacturer’s original express warranty.
  • 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 Missouri, 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
  • Allow you to return the car 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 Missouri 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, in which case federal law reduces the number of failed attempts to two (2), one attempt and 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 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 Missouri is 30.

If a vehicle is in the shop 30 days for any number of issues during the lemon law coverage period, 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, as well as incidental charges (car rental fees, etc.), but may deduct a “reasonable allowance” for the mileage put on the vehicle and any assessed damage beyond normal wear and tear.

This allowance is calculated by a standard formula.

Allow you to return the car 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, fees and interest paid on the loan), minus the allowance for usage and assessed damage.

Missouri Lemon Law Rules for Used Cars

The Missouri lemon law does not apply to used cars.

Even if the car is still under the original express warranty, if the car is re-sold the new buyer cannot take action through the state lemon law.

However, if the car is still under its original warranty, the new owner may be able to take action under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (see FAQs below).

Missouri Lemon Law Time Limit

The lemon law time period in Missouri is the term of the vehicle’s express warranty or 12 months (one year) after date of delivery to the buyer, whichever comes first.

The issue with the vehicle only needs to be first reported within this time period.

The vehicle owner then has six months following the expiration of the vehicle’s express warranty or 18 months following the date of the vehicle’s original delivery to make a claim with the manufacturer’s arbitrator.

If arbitration proves unsuccessful, the owner has 90 days following the final action in the arbitration process (typically the arbitrator’s decision) to file a lemon law suit through the courts.

How do I file a lemon law claim in Missouri?

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

To do this, send a certified letter (after the third failed repair attempt) to the address provided in the warranty paperwork or owner’s manual of the vehicle, including the following information:

  • Vehicle VIN number
  • Dealership from which the vehicle was purchased
  • The issue(s) with the vehicle
  • A list of repair attempts with copies of work orders/receipts
  • Notice that you are giving them one final attempt at repair

Upon receipt, the manufacturer must inform you of a reasonably accessible repair facility for their final attempt and then has 10 days to repair the vehicle.

If the manufacturer fails to repair the vehicle to satisfactory condition, you may proceed with the manufacturer’s dispute settlement process (arbitration) as listed in your vehicle’s paperwork.

If you cannot resolve the issue through the manufacturer’s process, you can then file a lemon law suit through the courts.

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

Chucking A Lemon In Missouri

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 Missouri, 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.