The Tennessee lemon law dictates that a vehicle with a defect or condition that substantially impairs the vehicle must be repaired to satisfactory condition within a reasonable number of attempts or days.
If repair of the vehicle is not possible, the manufacturer must replace the vehicle with the same (or similar) vehicle or accept a return of the vehicle for its original purchase price.
Tennessee Lemon Law Rules for New Cars
Tennessee’s lemon law is specifically geared toward 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 Tennessee if:
- The issue with the vehicle “substantially impairs” the use, market value, or safety of the vehicle.
- The issue with the vehicle occurs within one year of the original owner taking possession or six months of the expiration of the express warranty period (whichever comes later).
- 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 Tennessee, 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 Tennessee 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 at repair 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 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 Tennessee is 30.
If a vehicle is in the shop more than 30 days for any number of 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, as well as any incidental charges (interest, car rental fees, etc.), but may deduct a “reasonable allowance for use” for the mileage put on the vehicle and a fee for any assessed damage.
The allowance for use 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 fees for usage and assessed damage.
Tennessee Lemon Law Rules for Used Cars
Used vehicles are not covered by Tennessee’s lemon law, regardless of their mileage and whether they are still covered by a manufacturer’s warranty.
But, if your used car is still under a manufacturer’s warranty, you may have a claim under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act as described below.
Tennessee Lemon Law Time Limit
The time limit to file a lemon law claim in Tennessee is within one year of taking possession of the new vehicle, or within six months of the expiration of the express manufacturer’s warranty period.
Whichever comes later.
How do I file a lemon law claim in Tennessee?
Before filing a lemon law claim in Tennessee, 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) with the following information to the address provided in the warranty paperwork or the vehicle owner’s manual:
- Vehicle VIN number
- Name and address of the dealership where 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
At this point, the manufacturer 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 the vehicle’s paperwork.
If you cannot resolve the issue through arbitration, or don’t like the arbitrator’s decision, you can request mediation through the state or file a lawsuit through the courts.
For help with state mediation, file a complaint through the Division of Consumer Affairs.
The Division of Consumer Affairs can also help you with questions regarding filing a lemon law lawsuit in the state.
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 Tennessee, the lemon law applies to leased vehicles that are new and under a manufacturer’s warranty.
Chucking A Lemon In Tennessee
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 Tennessee, 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.