The Center for Auto Safety is a consumer advocacy group that has supported Lemon Laws since Connecticut drafted the first one 37 years ago. It has now looked at the laws in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and ranked them. California did pretty well in taking the 12th spot (more on that in a minute), but it was New Jersey that took the top spot, while Illinois was at the bottom.
The rankings were based on the following criteria as well as other metrics:
- The number of repair attempts or number of days a motor vehicle is out of service to qualify as a lemon
- Penalties against the manufacturer who willfully violates the Lemon Law
- Attorneys fees are covered if the vehicle is deemed a lemon
The states have different definitions of what constitutes a lemon, but generally speaking the motor vehicles has a single defect that is so serious that impairs the safety, value or use. Another general qualification among the states is that the vehicle in question spends long periods at the repair shop, the threshold is often set at 30 days.
Lower scoring states
Reasons for low scores in states like Illinois and Colorado included:
- No penalty for automakers who drag out the process (thus hoping the consumer will get frustrated and give up)
- Lemon law applicable for a short amount of time (Illinois sets it at one year or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first)
- The consumer may have to pay the other side’s legal bills if they lose the case
How California measured up
For a complete analysis, click here. But highlights include:
- Penalty for violation
- Vehicle use offset
It scored low in:
Owners need to protect themselves
The value of vehicles is second only to the price of a home. This makes Lemon Laws here in California and elsewhere particularly important for protecting that investment. While the laws here are stronger than most, attorneys can be an asset in enforcement and protection.