The Minnesota Lemon Law

The Minnesota lemon law gives you, the driver of a lemon vehicle, an opportunity to claim compensation from the manufacturer.

Which Vehicles Qualify for the MN Lemon Law?

Any new vehicle purchased or leased (for longer than four months) in Minnesota is covered by the lemon law, as long as it's used at least 40% of the time for personal, household or family purposes.

This includes cars, pickup trucks, vans, and the chassis and drivetrain of a recreational vehicle, or RV (if the lemon defect occurs in the chassis or drivetrain, the entire RV may be covered by the law; however, defects in the living quarters themselves are not covered by the lemon law in Minnesota).

Used vehicles are also covered, as long as they're still covered by the original manufacturer's warranty.

The defect must substantially impair your use of the vehicle, or substantially reduce its market value.

The first defect report to the dealer/manufacturer must occur within the warranty period, or within 24 months of delivery of the vehicle to you or the original owner (in the case of a used vehicle), whichever comes first.

The manufacturer must have been unable to repair a serious defect after at least four attempts. Or it must have been unable to repair, after one attempt, a complete failure of the braking or steering system, a failure likely to cause death or serious injury. Or the vehicle has been out of service due to repairs covered by the warranty for a total of 30 business days or more. This can be for one or more problems to the vehicle.

Some of the manufacturer's repair attempts can occur after the warranty or 24 month period expires, as long as the initial defect occurred and was reported during the protection period.

The vehicle is not covered by the Minnesota lemon law if the defect is caused by neglect, abuse or unauthorized repairs or modifications.

I Have a Minnesota Lemon. What Do I Do Next?

You must make the manufacturer aware of the defect and that you've reached the minimum threshold for lemon vehicles. In other words, state that your vehicle is a lemon and that you want a refund or replacement under the lemon law.

Begin by collecting all your notes, service orders and work invoices for each repair attempt, and any other supporting documentation. (Make sure that invoices say when you brought in the car for repair, and what day you picked it up. This is very important for the 30-day out-of-service lemon claim.) Photocopy everything.

Then write a letter to the manufacturer, detailing your claim. Attach all your photocopies. Remember to photocopy your letter as well, and keep that copy for your records. Your letter should include the following information...

  • Your name, address and phone.

  • The date you purchased the lemon vehicle, or the date you began leasing it. Also include the date you took delivery, if it's different from the purchase/lease date.

  • A list of all defects, and each system affected.

  • The number of times your vehicle has been in for repairs for the same problem, and the dates of those repairs. If you reached the 30 business day threshold, indicate how long each out-of-service period was (one day, five days, etc.).

  • A statement that, as of the date of your letter, the defect still exists.

  • A reference to the Minnesota lemon law, Minnesota Statutes, section 325F.665, along with a statement that you are claiming a refund or replacement under the lemon law if the manufacturer cannot make the vehicle conform to its express warranty.

  • A request for the manufacturer's arbitration program information package.

Send the letter by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested.

The manufacturer then has one more chance to fix the defect.

Arbitration or Law Suit?

Although the lemon law doesn't require it, you may have to go through the manufacturer's dispute resolution procedure before starting any law suit, if the manufacturer demands it. All manufacturers must offer an arbitration system to Minnesotans.

You are not bound by the arbitrator's decision. The manufacturer may or may not be bound by the decision, although most have agreed to be bound by it.

If you disagree with the arbitrator's final decision, you can file an appeal in court, which must be made within six months of the decision. If the court finds that you or the manufacturer acted in bad faith in appealing the arbitrator's decision, the winning side in the court case may be awarded three times the actual damages, plus attorney's fees and court costs.

So be prepared. If you decide to file a law suit, I urge you to consult a lemon law attorney first. These lawyers are experienced with suits involving the lemon law in Minnesota. Many work for free, taking their fee out of the award or court costs. If a lemon law lawyer doesn't think you can win, s/he probably won't take your case.

Refund or Replacement. Which Is Best?

Whether a refund or replacement is best is a question only you can answer, based on your circumstances. The following outlines what you'll receive.

You may be awarded a replacement vehicle of like or similar value by the arbitrator. You have the option of refusing the replacement and asking for a refund.

A refund must include the following...

  • The vehicle's full purchase price, or the amount you paid for the vehicle lease to that date. In either case, the manufacturer can deduct a reasonable use allowance, which cannot exceed 10 cents per mile, or 10% of the purchase price, whichever is less.

  • The cost of certain dealer-installed options.

  • Sales tax, license fees and registration fees.

  • Reimbursement for towing due to the defect.

  • Rental vehicle expenses due to the defect.

Minnesota Lemon Law Summary

The lemon law in Minnesota covers new and used vehicles that are still covered by the manufacturer's warranty, as long as the first report of the defect is made within 24 months of delivery to the original owner. Once your vehicle meets the lemon law criteria, write to the manufacturer to begin the arbitration process.

The sooner you begin, the sooner you'll have your say, and the sooner you'll have a replacement vehicle or a refund of your purchase price.

NOTE:The information here is not legal advice and is only presented to you so you can know your options if you purchased a lemon. As with any legal issue, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney.


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