The specifics of the Wisconsin lemon law vary depending on whether vehicle purchases were made before or after March 1, 2014. In most cases, however, consumers may qualify for a full refund or a new replacement vehicle if their automobile develops a major defect while covered under the manufacturer’s vehicle warranty.

However, the vehicle must be new, and the defect must develop within its first year of operation. Under the car lemon law, the dealer must attempt to fix the automobile at least four times or the vehicle must be “out of service” for at least 30 days.

Consumers may consult a lemon law attorney for additional assistance, especially if their vehicle’s manufacturer does not respond to their initial claim. Before filing a lawsuit, however, consumers may use one of the state’s free arbitration programs.

To learn more about these laws and to discover the process of filing a claim, Wisconsin drivers can review the information below.

What is the Lemon Law in Wisconsin?

While the Wisconsin lemon law definition varies depending on the vehicle’s date of purchase, these laws generally pertain to consumers who buy or lease a new motor vehicle that develops a major defect during the first year of operation.

The vehicle must also be less than one year old when the defects first develop, and consumers must purchase the automobile in the state of Wisconsin.

Under the state lemon law, the following must also be true:

  • The defect developed while the vehicle’s warranty was still in effect AND
  • The defect harms the vehicle’s value, use or safety AND
  • The dealer attempted to fix the defect at least four times but failed OR
  • The vehicle could not be used for at least 30 days

Under the new car lemon law, dealers must attempt to fix the vehicle’s defect at least four times before the automobile may qualify as a lemon, or the vehicle must be “out of service” for at least 30 consecutive or nonconsecutive days.

For instance, the vehicle may be “out of service” if its leaseholder, manufacturer or dealer attempts to repair it during that time.

Otherwise, the vehicle must be “out of service” because the manufacturer has attempted to fix it at least twice and driving the vehicle is unsafe to the consumer.

Does the Wisconsin Lemon Law apply to used cars?

There is no used car lemon law in Wisconsin, as these regulations only pertain to consumers who buy or lease new vehicles in the state. However, vehicle titles for a used car should indicate if the car was a lemon and purchased back by the vehicle manufacturer under such a condition.

Anyone buying a car should make sure to investigate vehicle history. Drivers can order a vehicle history report as needed when buying vehicles.

How does the Lemon Law work in Wisconsin?

The lemon laws in Wisconsin vary slightly depending on a vehicle’s purchase date.

For vehicles purchased on or after March 1, 2014, for instance, consumers must file a claim, request a refund, or request a comparable new vehicle within three years of receiving their new automobile.

To file a claim with a manufacturer, consumers must complete a Motor Vehicle and Nonconformity Report (Form MV2691) and mail it to the manufacturer’s address noted in the vehicle’s ownership manual along with a cover letter and any applicable repair orders from the dealership.

If consumers request a refund under the lemon law buyback program, the manufacturer must provide them with a full refund within 30 days.

If requesting a comparable new vehicle, however, the manufacturer must provide the consumer with a written agreement with 30 days. For heavy-duty automobiles, manufacturers must issue the refund or replacement vehicle within 120 days.

However, car lemon laws for vehicles purchased before March 1, 2014 are slightly different. Under this law, consumers do not need to file a claim within a certain amount of time, as there is no deadline for doing so.

However, most consumers file claims within six years of receiving their new motor vehicle. When filing a claim, vehicle owners may request a full refund or a replacement automobile.

To do so, they must mail a Motor Vehicle Lemon Law Claim (Form MV2694) to the manufacturer’s address included in their vehicle’s owner manual. Consumers must also include a cover letter and any applicable repair orders from the dealer.

After filing the claim, manufacturers must respond within 30 days.

Wisconsin Lemon Law Lawyers

Under the WI lemon law warranty program, automobile manufacturers generally need to respond to requests or issue full refunds within 30 days of receiving a claim from a consumer. If the manufacturer does not respond, however, consumers may do one of two things.

First, they may use their vehicle manufacturer’s free arbitration program before they may file a lawsuit. For instance, the following arbitration programs are certified in the state:

  • The Better Business Bureau (BBB) Auto Line for Nissan, Infiniti, Audi, Mercury, Lincoln, Kia, Isuzu, Mazda, Volkswagen and Hyundai vehicles
  • The National Center for Dispute Settlement for Toyota, Acura, Lexus and Honda vehicles
  • The Consumer Arbitration Program (CAP) for Porsche automobiles

Note: If an arbitration program is certified for your vehicle’s manufacturer, you must use the state’s arbitration program before you may file a lawsuit. Otherwise, doing so is optional.

Under the lemon law, consumers may hire an attorney if they do not reach an agreement through arbitration. With the help of an attorney, vehicle owners may file a lawsuit and go to court to reach a proper settlement.

In situations such as these, manufacturers generally need to pay the consumer’s reasonable lawyer’s fees. If consumers need assistance throughout any stage in the process, however, they may consult an attorney at any time.

Additional New and Used Car Laws in Wisconsin

Generally, WI lemon laws and manufacturer warranties only cover new vehicles.

Under the used car law, for instance, consumers who purchase previously-owned “as-is” vehicles do not qualify for a manufacturer’s warranty unless the vehicle comes with a remaining warranty or a dealer-limited warranty.

If a vehicle needs repairs and does qualify for a warranty, however, consumers must bring their vehicle to an authorized repair shop or dealership.

If the dealership does not comply with the terms of a vehicle’s warranty, consumers may complete a Dealer Complaint Form (MV2338) and mail it to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT)’s Dealer & Agent Section in Madison.

Under the WisDOT’s new and used car laws, however, consumers may file a complaint for unsatisfactory repairs as well, even if the vehicle is not covered by a warranty.

To file a complaint, vehicle owners may do so through the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

In addition to the Wisconsin car lemon law, anyone who purchases an automobile from a licensed dealership is protected under the state’s Motor Vehicle Trade Practice Laws. However, those who purchase a vehicle from a private party do not receive the same type of protection.

For instance, dealerships must disclose any known problems with the vehicle and they must inspect the automobile for hidden issues.

Dealers must also make note of any accident-related damages to the automobile, but they do not need to disclose additional information about the vehicle’s accident history.

How to Tell if Your New Car Is a Lemon

Under the federal lemon law, consumers may obtain a full refund or a replacement vehicle if their new automobile develops a substantial defect that affects the vehicle’s safety, use or value. These defects generally pertain to the vehicle’s brakes, transmission or engine.

For instance, a vehicle that stalls or fails to start may be a lemon. However, Wisconsin lemon laws only cover new cars, trucks, motor homes and motorcycles, but not semitrailers, mopeds or trailers.

Common lemons include the Chevrolet Cruze or Silverado, GMC Acadia, Dodge Challenger, Ford Focus or Escape and the Jeep Wrangler or Cherokee.

Last updated on Friday, March 15 2019.

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