Lemon Law

The Rhode Island lemon law covers any “motor vehicle”, defined as an automobile, truck, motorcycle, or van with a registered gross vehicle weight of less than 10,000 pounds. The motor vehicle must be sold, leased or replaced by a dealer or manufacturer after May 11, 1984. The lemon law covers used vehicles but does not cover motorized campers. A new vehicle qualifies under this law if - within one year or 15,000 miles, whichever occurs first- the vehicle has been serviced four or more times for the same defect or the vehicle is out of service due to repair of any defect for more than thirty days, but the defect still exists. A used vehicle will qualify if it has been in for service three times for the same defect within its dealer warranty period or has been out of service for 15 days within the warranty period.

Who enforces the Lemon Law?

The Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board within the Office of the Attorney General enforces the Lemon Law for new vehicles only. The Auto Arbitration Line of the Better Business Bureau also handles new vehicle Lemon Law complaints.

What should I do if my new vehicle falls under the Lemon Law?

First, the dealership should try to repair it.

If it cannot be repaired, you may file a request for arbitration with the Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board c/o Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit. To be eligible for arbitration under the Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board, you must meet the criteria above and submit a request for arbitration. If an individual qualifies for an arbitration, the Board will conduct an arbitration hearing between the individual and the manufacturer. The Board does not represent the individual requesting arbitration, they must either represent themselves or hire counsel.

You may also arbitrate the matter through the manufacturer’s dispute process or the BBB (see above). If the outcome is not to your satisfaction, you will need to consult an attorney.

What about used vehicles and leased vehicles?

Consumers should work with the dealership to repair a continuing problem with a used vehicle. Also inquire if the manufacturer has an informal dispute process. If a dealer fails to honor a warranty, consult an attorney. Leased vehicles follow the standards that are set for new cars.

Is there a Lemon Law for a car sale between private parties?

No, however, a private party cannot sell a car that does not meet the inspection standards of the state.