Lemon Law Frequently Asked Questions


By Attorney Terrence M. Polich

I often hear from people who are having problems with their new cars.  The car is experiencing repeated problems that cannot seem to be fixed under the warranty.  I tell them about the Lemon Law.  What is the Lemon Law?  Here is s a basic “FAQ” to fill you in. 

Is my car a lemon?

If your car has been in the shop four or more times for the same problem during your first year of ownership, or if it’s not working like it’s supposed to for 30 or more days during the first year even though you have brought it in for repair, you may qualify for a full refund or a replacement vehicle.  Your vehicle only qualifies as a lemon if the problem substantially affects the vehicle’s use, value, or safety.  All new motor vehicles sold or delivered in Wisconsin are protected by the lemon law, whether owned by a person or a business entity.

Can I get my money back?

If your vehicle is a lemon as defined by the law, you have two options: 

Full Refund.  You can obtain a full refund, including all amounts paid at point of sale, plus tax, title and licensing fees, all interest paid on the vehicle, and collateral costs, less a reasonable allowance for use which is defined by the law;  or

Comparable New Replacement Vehicle.  You can opt for a comparable new replacement vehicle.  If a comparable new replacement vehicle cannot be found in the exercise of due diligence, the manufacturer can opt to provide the refund option described above. 

How long Will it take?

The manufacturer is required to respond with a full refund or written notice that it will provide a comparable replacement vehicle within 30 days.  Some manufacturers have alternative dispute settlement procedures which can add some time to the process.  But typically, a response is received within 30 days. 

How long do I have to act on a Lemon Law Claim?

You only have three (3) years from the date you purchased the vehicle to pursue a lemon law claim. After that date, your lemon law claim is barred by the statute of limitations.  You may have longer under the federal Magnuson-Moss warranty act.  But you should not wait.  If you think you may have a lemon call or email me now. 

The Manufacturer has Denied the Claim – What Should I Do?

The manufacturers and their alternative dispute settlement programs almost always deny the consumer’s claim until the consumer hires a qualified and experienced lemon law lawyer.  What should you do if your claim has been denied?  Call me or send me an email.  I am happy to talk to you — at no charge. 

How much do you charge?

I charge nothing for my initial consultation with you.  If I take your case, we both sign a written fee agreement which I explain in detail prior to your signing.  There is no fee unless we win.  If the case is filed in court, we look to the manufacturer to pay.   If we obtain a full refund or a comparable new motor vehicle prior to filing suit, I cap our fees so you always know you will not have to pay too much.   

Attorney Polich is a partner at Lawton & Cates, S.C. He has been helping consumers and winning Lemon Law cases throughout Wisconsin for over 20 years.