The Wisconsin Lemon Law

The Wisconsin lemon law protects you if you purchase or lease a motor vehicle that develops a serious defect.

What Vehicles Does the WI Lemon Law Cover?

The lemon law in Wisconsin covers any purchased or leased new car, pickup truck, SUV, van, motorcycle or motorhome (recreational vehicle, or RV). It does not cover mopeds, semi-trailers, trailers or non-motorized RVs.

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

The manufacturer must have made four repair attempts and the defect is still present, or recurs. Alternatively, if the vehicle has been out of service due to repairs for one or more defects for 30 or more days, you have a lemon.

You have one year from the date of delivery for the four repair attempts or 30 days out of service to occur.

I Have a Wisconsin Lemon. What Should I Do?

If your vehicle meets all the criteria above, you have a lemon. It's now time to begin your claim.

Write to the manufacturer using the state's Motor Vehicle Lemon Law Notice form, which includes language required by the Wisconsin lemon law. Include photocopies of your notes, all repair orders and work invoices, and any other supporting documentation (e.g., the sales contract). Remember to keep a copy of the form for your own records.

Send the notice via certified mail, return receipt requested, to the address in your owner's manual.

The manufacturer has 30 days to respond to your claim.

Arbitration or Law Suit?

The manufacturer is required to replace the vehicle or refund its cost to you. If it refuses, you may have to use the manufacturer's or a third-party's informal dispute resolution process. If the process is certified by the Wisconsin Depart of Transportation, you must use it before you can proceed to court. The arbitration decision is not binding on you, so if you disagree with the decision, you can then file your lemon law suit.

If you do decide to file a suit, I recommend that you consult a lemon law attorney, a lawyer who is experienced with the Wisconsin lemon law. If you win, you could receive double the vehicle's purchase price, plus other costs and reasonable attorney fees. Your lemon law lawyer should be able to tell you if you have a winnable case.

Refund or Replacement?

You're entitled to a replacement or refund under the Wisconsin lemon law.

A replacement must be a vehicle of comparable value, plus reimbursement for all collateral costs, including towing charges, repairs you paid for, and alternative transportation costs related to the defect.

If you choose a refund, you'll receive the full purchase price, plus sales tax and license and registration fees, financing charges and any of the collateral costs noted above. The refund will go to you and any lien holder of record according to each party's interests.

The manufacturer is allowed to deduct a reasonable use fee based on the purchase price and the miles you drove the vehicle before first reporting the defect to the dealer. This is an excellent reason to report every defect as soon as you notice it.

You may also be charged for any missing equipment or unrepaired damage not due to normal wear and tear.

If you leased the vehicle, you will be paid for all lease payments you made, any sales taxes you paid, and for any of the collateral charges noted above, minus a reasonable use fee based on mileage and the total lease obligation placed upon you. The lessor will be reimbursed for the balance of the lease obligation amount plus an early termination fee plus the value of the vehicle at the end of the lease.

Wisconsin Lemon Law Summary

The lemon law in Wisconsin covers a wide range of new vehicles for one year from the date of delivery. After four repair attempts or 30 days out of service, you're eligible for a replacement or refund.

Begin your claim as soon as possible, as the sooner you win your claim, the sooner you'll be rid of your lemon vehicle.

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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