Do you know if your car is a lemon under the Minnesota Lemon Law? Do you even know the particulars of the Minnesota Lemon Law? We can help with this brief summary of what the law is, what it provides, and how it may apply to your new or used vehicle.

Minnesota Lemon Law

The Minnesota Lemon Law, also known by its official name, the Minnesota Motor Vehicle Warranty Statute, was created to protect consumers who buy or lease a car, pickup truck or van that is still under the manufacturer’s original warranty.

The Minnesota Lemon Law, it should be pointed out, is not intended to eliminate every or all of the problems you will ever encounter with your vehicle. But it is intended to require manufacturers to honor the time and mileage requirements of their motor vehicle warranties. For vehicles that are determined to be “lemons,” the Minnesota Lemon Law provides for special arbitration, refund and replacement provisions.

Motor Vehicles Covered Under Minnesota Lemon Law

The law covers new motor vehicles that are purchased or leased in the state of Minnesota. Besides passenger cars, pickup trucks and vans, the law also covers self-propelled motor vehicle chassis or the van portion of a recreational vehicle. Leased vehicles are covered by the Minnesota Lemon Law if the lease term is longer than four months.

Used vehicles are also covered under Minnesota Lemon Law as long as the motor vehicles are still under the original manufacturer’s warranty.

In order to be covered, motor vehicles must be used at least 40 percent of the time for personal, family or household purposes.

The first report of a defect with the motor vehicle must occur within the warranty period or two years, whichever comes first. If you have continuing problems with the same defect, however, you can still make a claim until the end of the third year.

Manufacturer’s Repair Duty

Under the provisions of the Minnesota Lemon Law, the manufacturer, or its authorized agent, the dealer, must repair a motor vehicle according to the terms of the manufacturer’s warranty, even after the warranty has expired, if:

  • The motor vehicle has a problem or defect specifically covered by the warranty, and
  • The vehicle’s owner has reported the problem within the warranty period or within two years after delivery of the vehicle, whichever comes first.

Requirement for the Manufacturer to Refund or Replace

For cars that have substantial defects of problems, those cars that are commonly called “lemons,” the Minnesota Lemon Law has special refund and replacement provisions.

Here’s how it works. If the manufacturer or its authorized dealer has been unsuccessful in repairing a car’s problem after a “reasonable number of attempts,” the buyer or lessee may go through the manufacturer’s arbitration program, or go to court, to seek a full refund of the vehicle’s purchase price (minus a deduction for use of the vehicle).

The Minnesota Lemon Law considers a reasonable number of attempts to be any of the following:

  • Four or more repair attempts that prove to be unsuccessful for the same defect, or,
  • One unsuccessful attempt to repair a defect which has resulted in the complete failure of the braking or steering system and which is likely to cause death or serious injury, or,
  • A car which has been out of service due to warranty repairs for 30 or more cumulative business days.

In each of the abovementioned three areas, the initial defect must occur within the warranty period or two years, whichever comes first, but the manufacturer’s repair attempts may extend to the end of the third year.

The Office of Minnesota Attorney General advises that even if you do not meet one of the above categories, you may still have a lemon law claim under the law, but it will be harder for you to prove.

Note that the manufacturer is not required to issue a refund or vehicle replacement if the problem or defect does not substantially impair the vehicle’s use or market value or if the problem or defect is the result of abuse, neglect or unauthorized modifications or alterations to the vehicle.

What You Need to Do to Get a Refund or Replacement Vehicle

While your vehicle may have been at the dealer for multiple repairs for the problem, you are not automatically eligible for a refund of the purchase price or a vehicle replacement. Before that can happen you have to perform certain actions.

First, you must write to the manufacturer of the vehicle, its zone representative, or authorized dealer, notifying them of the problem. In the letter, you must specifically state that your vehicle is a lemon and that you want a buy-back under the Minnesota Lemon Law.

What this accomplishes is two things: It gives the manufacturer one final time to attempt to repair the vehicle, and it lets the manufacturer know that you plan to use the Minnesota Lemon Law if the problem or defect is not successfully repaired.

You also should try to resolve the problem through the manufacturer’s dispute arbitration program. Note that the manufacturer may require that you first go through their arbitration program before you file suit in civil court under the lemon law.

For more information about the Minnesota Lemon Law, contact the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General at 1-800-657-3878 or (651) 296-3353 or go to their website.

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