Lemon Law in Virginia: How It Protects Used Car Consumers

Virginia consumers who find themselves with lemon vehicles can take solace in the fact that they may be protected under the Virginia Lemon Law, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (the federal lemon law), or even both. If you’re in this situation, you may be entitled to remedies such as a refund, replacement, or cash compensation to cover diminished value and incidental and consequential damages. Moreover, qualified consumers could receive free legal representation from a Virginia lemon law attorney, as attorneys’ fees are available.

But don’t worry if your vehicle doesn’t meet the criteria for either of these lemon laws. Virginia has other car buying laws, such as the Truth In Lending Act, that could help you recover cash damages. This financial assistance can be used to trade out your lemon vehicle or pay for necessary repairs.

If you want to explore whether you have a valid claim under the lemon law, you can connect here for a free, no-obligation Virginia Lemon Law case review. In order to qualify under the lemon law, your vehicle generally needs to have an unreasonable repair history under the warranty. This could include scenarios like three to four repair attempts for the same problem, a total of six repairs on the vehicle, or 30 days of service due to repairs.

Let’s take a closer look at the Virginia Lemon Law (Virginia Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act; VA Code Ann. 59.1-207.9 to VA Code Ann. 59.1-207.16.1) and its key provisions:

Virginia Lemon Law – Short Title (VA Code Ann. 59.1-207.9)

This chapter of the law is known as the Virginia Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act.

Intent Behind Virginia Lemon Law (VA Code Ann. 59.1-207.10)

The General Assembly recognizes the significant impact a defective motor vehicle can have on consumers. It is their intent that manufacturers or their agents resolve good faith motor vehicle warranty complaints within a specified time period. The General Assembly also aims to provide statutory procedures for consumers to obtain a replacement vehicle or a full refund for a vehicle that fails to meet the manufacturer’s warranty. Importantly, this law does not limit or undermine any other consumer rights available under different laws.

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Definitions Under Virginia New Car Lemon Law (VA Code Ann. 59.1-207.11)

In this chapter, several terms have specific meanings. Here are a few important definitions:

  • “Collateral charges” include various sales-related or lease-related fees, taxes, registration charges, and finance or interest expenses.
  • A “comparable motor vehicle” refers to a vehicle that is identical or reasonably equivalent to the one to be replaced.
  • A “consumer” is the purchaser or lessee of a motor vehicle primarily used for personal, family, or household purposes. It also includes anyone entitled to enforce the warranty obligations.
  • “Incidental damages” have the same meaning as defined in § 8.2-715.
  • The “lemon law rights period” lasts for eighteen months after the original delivery of the new motor vehicle to the consumer. This period allows consumers to report nonconformities and pursue their rights under the lemon law.
  • A “lien” represents a security interest in a motor vehicle.
  • A “lienholder” is an entity with a security interest in a motor vehicle through a lien.
  • The term “manufacturer” includes any business involved in manufacturing or assembling motor vehicles or distributing them to dealers.
  • A “manufacturer’s express warranty” refers to the written warranty issued by the manufacturer, including any conditions precedent to enforcing warranty obligations.
  • “Motor vehicle” encompasses passenger cars, pickup trucks, motorcycles, motor homes, mopeds, demonstrators, or leased vehicles with a warranty.
  • “Motor vehicle dealer” has the same meaning as in § 46.2-1500.
  • “Nonconformity” refers to a failure, defect, or condition that significantly impairs a motor vehicle’s use, market value, or safety.
  • “Notify” or “notification” means providing written complaint to the manufacturer, responding to consumers’ complaints in writing, or meeting with them or an authorized dealer to address nonconformity.
  • “Reasonable allowance for use” generally doesn’t exceed half of the amount permitted per mile for using a personal vehicle for business purposes under IRS regulations. Additionally, it factors in any loss to the vehicle’s fair market value resulting from damage, unless the damage is due to nonconformity.
  • A “serious safety defect” includes life-threatening malfunctions or nonconformities that impede ordinary use or create a risk of fire or explosion.
  • “Significant impairment” means rendering a new motor vehicle unfit, unreliable, or unsafe for ordinary use or reasonable intended purposes.
  • “Warranty” encompasses implied warranties, written warranties, affirmations of fact, or promises made by a manufacturer that become part of the basis of the bargain. The manufacturer is responsible for material, workmanship, and the fitness of the motor vehicle for intended purposes throughout the lemon law rights period.
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Conformity to All Warranties (VA Code Ann. 59.1-207.12)

If a new motor vehicle doesn’t meet all warranties and the consumer reports it to the manufacturer, its agents, or authorized dealers during the warranty period, the manufacturer or its representatives must make necessary repairs to bring the vehicle into conformity with the warranties. This applies even if the repairs take place after the warranty period expires.

Nonconformity of Motor Vehicles (VA Code Ann. 59.1-207.13)

If the manufacturer, its agents, or authorized dealers fail to resolve nonconformities that significantly impair a motor vehicle’s use, market value, or safety after a reasonable number of repair attempts during the lemon law rights period, the manufacturer must take one of the following actions:

  1. Replace the motor vehicle with a comparable one acceptable to the consumer.
  2. Accept the return of the motor vehicle and provide a refund to the consumer, lessor, and any lienholder. The refund must cover the full contract price, collateral charges, incidental damages, and a reasonable allowance for the consumer’s use of the vehicle up until the first notice of nonconformity was sent to the manufacturer or its representatives. The consumer has the right to choose between a replacement vehicle and a refund, and they can continue driving the motor vehicle until they receive the replacement or refund. The reasonable allowance for use applies to both replacements and refunds, and the consumer can seek mileage expenses and reasonable loss of use due to attempts to conform the vehicle to the warranty.

If a leased vehicle is involved, the motor vehicle must be returned to the manufacturer, and the consumer’s lease will be terminated by the lessor without any penalties. The lessor will transfer the title to the manufacturer as necessary to fulfill the consumer’s rights. The same lemon law rights period applies, but the time limit may be extended if the manufacturer has been notified but failed to effectively repair the nonconformity by the end of the original rights period.

The manufacturer must clearly and conspicuously state in the warranty or owner’s manual that consumers must provide written notification of the nonconformity before they can qualify for a refund or replacement under this chapter. The manufacturer must also include their name and address for such notifications. It is the consumer’s responsibility to notify the manufacturer of the need for correction or repair, unless the manufacturer has already been notified as defined in § 59.1-207.11. If the manufacturer or factory representative has not been notified and any conditions specified in subsection B of this section already exist, the manufacturer has an extra 15 days to address the nonconformity upon receiving notification from an authorized dealer.

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This chapter of the law does not limit or affect any other consumer rights and remedies available.

Action to Enforce Provisions of Chapter (VA Code Ann. 59.1-207.14)

Any consumer who suffers losses due to a violation of this chapter can file a civil action to enforce the provisions. If successful, the consumer may recover reasonable attorney’s fees, expert witness fees, and court costs. Similarly, any defendant who prevails in a frivolous action brought by a consumer is entitled to recover the same.

Informal Dispute Settlement Procedure (VA Code Ann. 59.1-207.15)

If a manufacturer offers an informal dispute settlement procedure, consumers can decide whether or not to utilize it before pursuing their rights under this chapter. If a consumer resorts to this procedure and the decision is in their favor (such as a refund or replacement), the manufacturer has 40 days from receiving the consumer’s acceptance to comply with the decision. If the manufacturer fails to comply, the consumer can take legal action to enforce the decision and may be entitled to triple the value of the stipulated award, along with other appropriate equitable relief and additional attorney’s fees.

Action to be Brought Within Certain Time (VA Code Ann. 59.1-207.16)

Consumers must initiate any action under this chapter within eighteen months of the original delivery of the motor vehicle. However, if the consumer attempted to settle the dispute using the informal dispute settlement procedure within eighteen months and was unsuccessful, they have twelve months from the final action taken by the manufacturer to bring an action in court, or they can use the original eighteen-month period, whichever is longer.

Disclosure of Returned Vehicles; Penalty (VA Code Ann. 59.1-207.16:1)

If a motor vehicle is returned to the manufacturer or distributor under this chapter, either voluntarily or through a court judgment or arbitration award, and subsequently transferred to a dealer licensed under Chapter 15 of Title 46.2 in Virginia, the manufacturer or distributor must disclose this information to the Virginia dealer. Furthermore, if the returned vehicle becomes available for resale or lease, the manufacturer must provide written disclosure to the Virginia dealer. This disclosure must be clear and conspicuous, detailing the fact that the vehicle was returned, the defect that prompted the return, and the condition of the vehicle at the time of transfer. It is the dealer’s responsibility to notify prospective buyers or lessees about this disclosure and to transfer the information to subsequent purchasers or lessees. Any manufacturer or distributor violating this provision will be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

To learn more about lemon laws in Virginia and how they protect consumers, visit Garrity Traina, your trusted resource for legal advice and representation.

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult qualified legal professionals for advice specific to your situation.