Does Colorado Have a Lemon Law?

Every individual looks forward to purchasing a brand-new vehicle or consumer product. Researching and choosing the best brand, model, color, trim, etc., is exciting. Most products and cars come with a warranty to cover any issues during the initial purchase period. Should something go wrong affecting the safety of the vehicle or product, you return it to the store or dealership to have the problem fixed. If the product or vehicle continues to have issues, and continuously ends up in the repair shop, you may have purchased a “lemon.” Fortunately, federal and state Lemon Laws protect consumers from being stuck with a lemon vehicle.

A car represents a significant investment for a consumer. Car and Driver Magazine states that the average cost of a new passenger car in 2022 is $47,100 [1]. It is reasonable for a person to expect a new vehicle to be constructed appropriately, tested to conform to safety regulations, and provide dependable transportation for such an investment.

If a new vehicle should turn out to have several defects and require numerous trips to the manufacturer or dealership’s repair shop, the consumer has been significantly inconvenienced. The car was not properly constructed and the consumer may doubt that the vehicle can provide safe, dependable transportation. In fact, the car has little value to the consumer—it’s a lemon. An estimated 150,000 cars, or 1% of new vehicles, are lemons [2].

What Is a Lemon Law?

Lemon laws are legal statutes adopted in most states making it simpler for a purchaser of a new vehicle to sue for damages, replacement, or a refund if the dealer or manufacturer cannot make it run properly after a reasonable time and number of attempts to repair the car.  Dealerships have the responsibility to review and decide whether a vehicle is a “lemon” in most states. However, no dealership wants to admit that they sold a defective car, so they will often offer a quick resolution such as a discounted repair price or money off the purchase of another vehicle. Individuals can obtain a vehicle to replace the current one under state lemon laws once their original vehicle is determined to be a “lemon.”

What Determines if a Vehicle or a Product Is a “Lemon?”

Under many state laws, a vehicle or a product is a “lemon” if:

  • It has a severe defect that occurred within a specific time or number of miles after purchase and
  • it has a fault covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, and
  • after several repair attempts, the problem was not fixed.

The purchaser must allow the manufacturer or authorized dealer a reasonable number of repairs to fix the issue. For defects that could cause severe injury or death, one attempt to repair the problem is considered reasonable. The malfunction or defect must make the car unsafe, lower the vehicle’s value, or prohibit the vehicle’s regular use.

If you believe you purchased a “lemon”, you could be entitled to a refund, replacement, or another type of settlement. The attorneys at Help in Colorado help consumers deal with issues related to defective consumer products.

What Vehicles Are Covered Under the Colorado Lemon Law?

Colorado’s lemon law covers new and used private passenger vehicles, vans, and pickup trucks used to travel on roads and highways [3]. Vehicles must be used to carry no more than ten people. The car’s title must still be in the name of the original purchaser and not issued previously to anyone other than the seller.

Vehicles that are not covered under the Colorado Lemon Law are:

  • Leased vehicles
  • Motorhomes
  • Three-wheel vehicles

What Conditions or Defects Are Covered under Colorado’s Lemon Law?

Any fault or defect covered under the manufacturer’s warranty that negatively impacts the vehicle’s safety, use, or value to the consumer is covered by Colorado’s Lemon Law. “Substantial impairment” means the defect makes your vehicle undependable or unsafe for ordinary use, or it reduces the resale value of the car negatively compared to the average resale value of comparable vehicles [4]. Lemon Laws will not apply to any defect or fault that results from abuse, neglect, or unauthorized alteration or modification.

Statute of Limitations for Claims under Colorado’s Lemon Law

Colorado’s lemon law statute 42-10-107 lets consumers file complaints within six months after the new or used vehicle’s warranty term expires or one year after the vehicle’s original date of delivery—whichever occurs first [5].

Don’t let the dealership give you the runaround on vehicle repairs for your new vehicle! Consult an experienced Colorado consumer protection and injury attorney to help you determine whether you purchased a “lemon” and if you are eligible for compensation.

Eligibility under Colorado Lemon Laws

For any vehicle to be considered eligible for replacement or compensation under the Colorado Lemon Law, it must meet the following requirements:

Prior Notice Requirement

Before you resort to suing a manufacturer for a refund or replacement vehicle, the consumer must send a written notice of defect by certified mail to the manufacturer.

Repair Attempts Requirement

Suppose the vehicle displays some faulty mechanism or malfunctioning system within the first year of purchase, and this defect significantly reduces the vehicle’s usability, safety, and market value. In that case, the manufacturer is allowed a specific number of attempts to repair it. The Colorado lemon law states that a “reasonable number of repair attempts”  is equal to four repair attempts for the same issue without a successful repair, or a repair that takes 30 days or more but fails to fix the issue.

A repair replaces or adds a part or component to correct a defect or malfunction. The manufacturer must have caused the faults or defects and significantly impaired the vehicle’s drivability, safety, and market value. Any repair may only be performed by the manufacturer or its authorized dealer or agent to be counted as a repair attempt under Colorado’s Lemon Law.

You may satisfy the repair attempt requirement using these three ways:

  • The manufacturer is allowed four attempts to repair the defect or condition for most problems.
  • When the defect qualifies as a “severe safety defect,” the manufacturer is given just one attempt to repair the problem. A severe safety defect is likely to result in bodily injury or could be fatal if not repaired.
  • A vehicle is considered to meet the repair attempt requirement when it has been out of use because of repair for at least 30 days. The days the vehicle is unable to be used can occur during one repair visit or accrue during several visits. You need to get a copy of the repair order for each repair visit to document the repair attempt and the number of days the vehicle was out of service.

Final Demand Requirement

After your vehicle has been subjected to repair at least four times for the same defect and has not been fixed, you must make a final written request for resolution. Send the manufacturer a demand in writing that they fix the car, give you a replacement vehicle of a comparable model, or refund your purchase money.

What if the Manufacture Cannot Repair the Vehicle?

It is unreasonable to expect someone to continue bringing their vehicle in for repair repeatedly and never having the defect fixed. Having given the manufacturer a reasonable opportunity to fix the car and have all attempts failed, the consumer has a right to expect a satisfactory resolution.

Arbitration

Colorado’s lemon law stipulates that a purchaser must use the manufacturer’s “dispute settlement procedure” (arbitration) to settle the matter.  The remedies of repurchase or replacement cannot be instituted until the consumer has first attempted to settle the matter through arbitration. If the manufacturer does not have an arbitration procedure, the National Automotive Dealers Association Automotive Consumer Action Program offers mediation services [6].

Suppose both parties fail to negotiate a settlement under the Colorado lemon law statutes 42-10-103 [7]. In that case, you have the right to demand that the manufacturer either repurchases your vehicle or replaces your vehicle with a new one. When replacing the car, the manufacturer must provide a motor vehicle comparable to the current car.

Legal Remedies if the Manufacturer Will Not Repurchase or Replace Your Vehicle

File a Civil Court Claim

Under the Colorado Lemon Law, if the manufacturer fails to fix your vehicle, you are legally eligible for a remedy; a refund of the purchase price minus a reasonable use fee; or a replacement comparable to your current vehicle. If the manufacturer has refused to fix the car or provide a remedy, you have the option of taking the matter to trial in civil court.

File a Federal Court Breach of a Warranty Claim

Colorado consumers can also hire a lawyer to file a breach of warranty claim under the federal Magnusson-Moss Act up to three years past the product purchase date. The Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act [8] protects the buyer of any product that costs over $25 and comes with a written warranty from deceptive warranty practices. It ensures that a warranty provided by a seller can be easily understood by the purchaser and enforceable in the event of a breach of warranty.

The Magnuson-Moss Act regulates the warranties on all consumer products that do not live up to performance expectations after the initial purchase and have a significant repair history.  Section 2304(a)(1) covers cars that fail to live up to warranty claims [9]. If the product has a defect or malfunctioning part after the warrantor’s reasonable attempts to remedy defects or malfunctioning parts, then the warrantor must allow the consumer to select a refund for, or replacement without charge of, such product.

When an individual purchases and uses a defective product that could cause substantial injury, they are entitled to seek a refund of the product’s purchase price, a replacement of the product, or a cash compensation settlement for the losses they have suffered.

If you prefer to keep the vehicle, you may also be able to hire an attorney to negotiate cash compensation inclusive of attorneys’ fees as an alternative to the cost of repurchase or replacement.

Proving that your car is a “lemon” and holding the manufacturer liable can be challenging and time-consuming. You will need to provide documentation of your vehicle purchase, the vehicle’s service records, and any correspondence with the manufacturer or car dealer. Providing evidence that other drivers have the same problems you are experiencing with your vehicle may strengthen your claim. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website maintains a vehicle recall database that you can search using your vehicle identification number [10].

Contact Help in Colorado

Ross Ziev is a Denver personal injury and consumer protection lawyer who understands the complexities of Colorado’s legal system and federal lemon laws. While our office does not handle lemon law cases directly, we can point you in the right direction.

Contact Help in Colorado online for a free consultation, call us at (303) 351-2567, or visit our offices at 6795 E. Tennessee Ave. #210, Denver, CO, 80224.

References

[1] https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a38748092/new-car-average-sale-prices-47100/

[2] https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/lemon-law-used-cars-30107.html

[3] https://sbg.colorado.gov/sites/sbg/files/DR%202440_1.pdf

[4] https://sbg.colorado.gov/sites/sbg/files/DR%202440_1.pdf

[5] https://law.justia.com/codes/colorado/2016/title-42/motor-vehicle-repairs/article-10/section-42-10-107

[6] https://www.nada.org/

[7] https://law.justia.com/codes/colorado/2016/title-42/motor-vehicle-repairs/article-10/section-42-10-103

[8] https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2009-title15/html/USCODE-2009-title15-chap50.htm

[9] https://uscode.house.gov/

[10] https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls