Purchased or leased passenger vehicles, trucks with a ton or less rated capacity, and multi-purpose vehicles registered in the state, excluding fleets of 5 or more motor vehicles and excluding motor homes as defined under the Motor Vehicle Administration Regulations. 1 unsuccessful repair of braking or steering system failure, 4 repair attempts or 30 days out of service. 15 months or 15,000 miles, whichever occurs first or 1 year/12,000 miles whichever occurs first for leased vehicles.

Maryland Lemon Law Statute

Maryland Attorney General - Lemon Law

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration

New Car Lemon Law Complaint Form

Three Sample Letters

Your Rights Under Maryland's Lemon Law

If your new car spends more time in the repair shop than on the road, you know you have a problem.

In most cases, the manufacturer's warranty that comes with your car will provide the coverage you need to have your car repaired at no cost to you. Your warranty will tell you what parts and systems of your car are covered and for how long. If you need repairs, you must have them done by a dealer, although you do not have to use the same dealer who sold you your car.

In some cases, however, the dealer may be unable to fix your car's problem. If that is the case, you may have a lemon.

Maryland's Lemon Law applies to new or leased motor vehicles (including cars, light trucks and motorcycles), registered in Maryland, that are less than 15 months old and have been driven less than 15,000 miles. The law provides for consumers whose cars meet certain criteria to receive a refund or a replacement vehicle if repair attempts have failed to correct a problem, and the problem substantially impairs the use and market value of the vehicle.

Not all new cars with problems qualify as lemons, but if yours does, you must take action quickly to receive relief under the law.

This publication will help you determine whether your car is a lemon, tell you what to do about it and explain how Maryland's Consumer Protection Division can help.

Is it a Lemon?

Maryland's lemon law applies only to cars, light trucks and motorcycles that:

  1. Are registered in Maryland, and
  2. Have been driven less than 15,000 miles and been owned less than 15 months. (Even if you are not the original owner, the Lemon Law might apply to your vehicle if the original owner purchased it less than 15 months ago.)
The law provides that a dealer or manufacturer must correct a defect within 30 days after the consumer writes to the manufacturer by certified mail. If the manufacturer or dealer is unable to do so, the consumer is entitled to a refund or replacement vehicle under the Lemon Law if the car has:

  • A brake or steering failure that was not corrected after the first repair attempt, and that causes the vehicle to fail Maryland's safety inspection; or
  • <;i>Any one problem that substantially impairs the use and market value of the vehicle that was not corrected in four repair attempts; or
  • Any number of problems that substantially impair the use and market value of the vehicle that have caused it to be out of service for a cumulative total of 30 or more days.
If you suspect your car is a lemon -- for example, if the dealer has tried once or twice unsuccessfully to repair the problem and you believe the problem substantially impairs the use and market value of the vehicle -- you should write to the manufacturer immediately. You do not need to wait until the dealer has made the four repair attempts, or until the car has been out of service for 30 days.

What to Do If Your Car Hasn't Yet Met the Definition of a Lemon

If your car does not yet qualify as a lemon, but is still covered by a warranty and is not working properly, you should take the following steps:

Contact your dealer and ask to have the problems repaired under the warranty. If your dealer is not cooperating or seems to be unable to correct the problem, contact another dealer who sells the type of car you have purchased. A different dealer may be more successful in dealing with your problem. You should not be charged for this work. Keep copies of all receipts for work done on the vehicle. Immediately notify the manufacturer, in writing, of the problem and ask for assistance. Include the year, make, model and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of your car and enclose copies of repair orders from the dealer's attempts to repair your vehicle. (See sample letter A.) Send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested. Send a copy of your letter to the Consumer Protection Division with a completed complaint form.

Once the manufacturer receives your letter, it has 30 days to fix the problem. The manufacturer can authorize the dealer to make the repair.

Keep copies of all correspondence with the dealer and manufacturer, and keep notes of phone calls, including dates of the calls.

What to Do If Your Car Does Meet the Definition of a Lemon And You Have Not Yet Notified the Manufacturer

If your car is a lemon, you are entitled to a replacement vehicle or the manufacturer must refund the full purchase price minus an allowance for use, not to exceed 15 percent of the purchase price.

If you have not yet notified the manufacturer and you think your car meets the definition of a lemon, you should immediately notify the manufacturer by letter, sent certified mail, return receipt requested. (See sample letter B.) Send a copy of your letter to the Consumer Protection Division along with a completed complaint form, and keep a copy for your own files. In your letter, you should:

  • List the make, model, year and VIN of your vehicle.
  • Include the name of the dealership from which your automobile was purchased and the date of purchase. Describe the problem you are having.
  • Describe what you have done to address the problem and include copies of repair orders and dates of repair attempts.
Once the manufacturer receives your letter, it has 30 days to fix the problem. The manufacturer can authorize the dealer to make the repair.

What the Manufacturer Must Do Once it is Notified About Your Car's Problem

If your car is a lemon and the manufacturer is unable to correct the problem within 30 days of receiving your letter, the manufacturer must repurchase or replace your vehicle. If you previously contacted the manufacturer, you will want to send a follow-up letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, outlining your problem, the steps you have taken to resolve it and what action you want taken. (See sample letter C.)

The manufacturer can replace your vehicle with a comparable one that is acceptable to you, or buy it back, whichever you prefer. The repurchase price you are offered should cover the full purchase price including license fees, registration fees and other similar governmental charges. The manufacturer can subtract up to 15 percent of the purchase price for your use of the vehicle, and a reasonable allowance for damage not attributed to normal wear and tear.

Excise taxes are not refunded by the manufacturer. The Motor Vehicle Administration will return those to you or apply them against your next vehicle. If you have questions about excise taxes, you can call the Motor Vehicle Administration's customer service line at 800-950-1MVA.

If the manufacturer refuses to provide you with a replacement vehicle or refund, or if you need assistance in negotiating the appropriate refund price, you may file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division, and we will contact the manufacturer to assist you in your negotiations.

The Arbitration Option

All car manufacturers offer some form of complaint resolution procedure. If the manufacturer will not agree to repurchase or replace your car, it may offer to submit your dispute to arbitration. This is an optional procedure; whether or not you use it is your choice. The decision of the arbitrator is binding only on the manufacturer, not the consumer. If you are not satisfied with the arbitrator's decision, you may still file a lawsuit against the manufacturer and take your case to court.

If you plan to submit your complaint to arbitration, here are some steps you should take to prepare:

Arrange your records in chronological order. Prepare a brief outline summarizing the events. Submit copies of records about your car's problem and a copy of your warranty along with an arbitration application. Ask the arbitration program representative to send you copies of all materials submitted in advance by the manufacturer so you can anticipate and respond to its arguments.

You may want to have an independent automotive expert examine your car. You can submit a written report of the expert's findings to the arbitrator. You will have to pay for the expert, but the report might help you make your case. You can ask the arbitrator to reimburse your expenses in obtaining the report, although you cannot be assured you will be compensated for this expense even if you prevail in the arbitration. Taking Your Lemon Law Complaint to Court

If you are not satisfied with the results of arbitration, or if you decide not to arbitrate, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of your vehicle. At this point, you should hire a lawyer if you do not already have one. The Maryland Bar Association or your county bar association can refer you to an attorney in your area. You must file your case within three years from the date the car was delivered to you.

Secret Warranties and Service Bulletins

When a part has a high failure rate, a car manufacturer will sometimes notify its dealers that it will pay for certain repairs even after the original warranty expires. However, manufacturers do not notify car owners about these secret warranties, sometimes called goodwill adjustments, service campaigns or other names. To find out about secret warranties or technical service bulletins that might apply to your vehicle, contact the Center for Auto Safety. Call (202) 328-7700 or send a letter with a self- addressed, stamped envelope to: Center for Auto Safety, Suite 410, 2001 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20009-1160. Be sure to list the make, model and year of your car and describe the specific problem you are experiencing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has information about recalls and technical service bulletins, which you can obtain by calling their hotline at 800-424-9393, or visiting NHTSA's website.