Washington’s lemon law refers to the consumer’s right to dispute serious defects on new vehicles. Not all cars are eligible and must meet certain requirements before an application can be submitted.

While not mandatory, an attorney’s expertise may increase the chances of a successful claim. Owners must file a request within a set time period and present proof of the vehicle’s defects to the arbitrator.

Manufacturers are required to replace or repurchase the vehicle if the claim is successful. In Washington, the used car lemon law only applies to vehicles purchased within the past two years. Additional restrictions apply for used cars.

Washington motorists can learn more about laws for faulty vehicles in the sections below.

What is the Lemon Law in Washington?

The WA lemon law protects new vehicle owners from serious defects covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. Drivers must submit a request for an arbitration hearing within 30 months of buying the vehicle to qualify.

If your claim is accepted, the lemon law buyback policy states that manufacturers must replace the vehicle or repurchase it from you. Vehicles must be bought or leased in the state of Washington to qualify.

Furthermore, the owner must make a reasonable number of attempts to fix the issue within a set period of time. This time-frame is based on the manufacturer’s warranty dates, the millage and sale date of the vehicle.

Repairs must be made within two years of the purchase date and within 24,000 miles. In order for a claim to quality for a hearing, the lemon law definition states that the damage must make a substantial effect on the use and safety of the vehicle.

Note: The manufacturer’s vehicle warranty must cover at least 12 months or 12,000 miles to be protected under the law. Not all vehicles are eligible. Weight and engine size may disqualify your claim.

Does the Washington Lemon Law apply to used cars?

It is not only new vehicles that benefit from this law. Drivers who have recently purchased a car from a previous owner may file for a lemon law arbitration hearing if the vehicle qualifies.

Used car claims are subject to the same 30-month time frame. Depending on the number of previous owners, this time frame may have passed. Therefore, defects on used cars must be flagged and filed quickly.

The state’s used car lemon law does not apply to military members who bring out-of-state cars into Washington. However, members of the armed forces are still permitted to file for a claim on new cars bought from other states.

Owners must provide evidence that the vehicle is new and has an out-of-state warranty.

How does the Lemon Law work in Washington?

If your vehicle qualifies as a lemon, you may begin the filing process. There are two outcomes to a successful claim; the vehicle will be repurchased from you or replaced with a new one. If your vehicle is replaced, you will be given the exact same make and model as your first.

The Washington state lemon law policy requires all fees and taxes already paid on the vehicle to be covered by the manufacturer. If the vehicle is repurchased from you, the manufacturer will reimburse you the amount you originally paid.

Owners of a leased vehicle will have all previous payments reimbursed, as well as the remaining contract cancelled. Similarly, finance loans will be paid back in full by the manufacturer. Other incidental costs may also be awarded to successful claims.

If your vehicle meets the federal lemon law requirements laid out in pervious sections, you may apply for a hearing. Applicants must complete the below steps to begin the arbitration process.

  1. Send a written request to the manufacturer before submitting a claim. The manufacture has 40 days to respond to the request. After this time has passed, you may file for a hearing with the WA courts.
  2. Complete an arbitration application form. This form requires your personal details, claim details and signature.
  3. Mail or email the form to the Lemon Law Administration with all necessary supporting documents. Do not send original documents. Printed copies or PDFs are acceptable.

While there are no fees for arbitration hearings in Washington, administrative fees may apply. Once the arbitration has been scheduled, you must bring a completed financial information form with you to court. This form will be sent to you prior to your hearing.

During your hearing, you will be asked to present proof for at least one of the following four defect categories. Each category adheres to separate repair rules.

Depending on the category, you may need to provide proof that you attempted to repair or diagnose a defect at least four times during the eligibility period.

  1. Unrepaired non-conformity
  2. Unrepaired serious safety defect
  3. Multiple serious safety defects
  4. Days out of service

In all of the above cases, at least one of the repair attempts must be made within the warranty period and the eligibility period. The 30-day lemon law does not apply for used cars.

A lemon defect does not necessarily need to be repaired to qualify for a claim. If your claim has been accepted, the manufacturer will replace or buyback your vehicle.

Note: Customers are not exempt from submitting payments during the claim process.

Washington Lemon Law Lawyers

While it is not mandatory, hiring a specialized attorney will help you present your case more efficiently. If you decide to consult with a lemon law attorney, you should so early on in your claim.

Experienced lawyers know the detailed rules and procedures of the court and will help you better understand the options in front of you.

You may have to defend specific arguments in court from the manufacturer’s statement. Having an attorney present will help you utilize corners of the law you may not be privy to. In some cases, a settlement is reached before the hearing starts.

Settlement documents must be received in writing and agreed on from both parties. A lemon law attorney will know the benefits of early settlements and ensure you have the correct paperwork before withdrawing your case from the courts.

If withdrawn incorrectly, a claim may not be able to be re-filed.

In some cases, a technical expert may be called. Specialist attorneys are equipped with the experience and expertise in questioning these witnesses and asking the right questions. Without the right representation, you may not be able to either defend or prove your case.

It is worth noting that lemon law attorney fees will be covered only if the manufacturer is also represented. However, manufacturers are not typically represented but attorneys. Therefore, your costs may not be covered despite winning the claim.

Additional New and Used Car Laws in Washington

While motorhomes are covered under the state’s lemon law, not all parts of the vehicle are eligible for a claim. For example, if the defect occurs in a part of the home that caters to the occupant’s living quarters, such as the kitchen or office space, a claim cannot be filed.

All defects must affect the mobility and operation of the vehicle itself. The lemon law arbitrator may split up the responsibility of a claim between several manufacturers if the defect is the fault of more than one particular company.

When it comes to used and new vehicles alike, anyone buying a car from a dealership can expect to have a car that is fit for use and safe to drive, within reason.

How to Tell if Your New Car Is a Lemon in Washington

The state’s lemon law covers major defects to a vehicle’s safety and mobility. Ask yourself the following questions to determine if your car can be classified as a lemon.

  1. Does your vehicle need repairs as a result of a non-conformity defect? A non-conformity defect is an error that severely affects the use or value of the vehicle.
  2. Does your vehicle need repairs as a result of a serious safety defect? A serious safety defect is one that removes the driver’s ability to safety operate the vehicle and places him or her, and others, in grave danger.
  3. Have you attempted to fix the defect more than once? In some cases, serious defects that take multiple attempts at repairing will qualify your car as a lemon.
  4. Is the defect covered by the manufacturer’s warranty? Washington’s lemon law does not cover all issues. Alterations made by the owner, as well as any issues caused by neglect or abuse are not included.

Some brands or models may be more likely to produce lemons, so you should make sure you do thorough research before purchase. A vehicle history report can be helpful if you are looking to get a used car.

Last updated on Wednesday, September 23 2020.