New Jersey, Washington protect consumers with best new car lemon laws

February 5, 2019

The Center For Auto Safety found that New Jersey and Washington state do a better job protecting consumers with defective cars than other states.

New Jersey ranked first and Washington came in a close second place in the findings published last week. The study looked at numerous pieces of every state's so-called  "lemon laws," which are put in place to provide relief for consumers in the case a new vehicle fails to live up to standards of quality or performance.

The categories the Center For Auto Safety looked at when ranking each state were: basic presumptions, the applicable period, safety lemon, garden-variety lemon, vehicle use offset, penalty for violation, vehicle types covered, state-run arbitration, attorney fees, and damages. Each category was scored on a scale of one to 10, and deductions or bonus points were awarded for a few other areas of a state's lemon law.

New Jersey scored 84 points, or an "A" letter grade. Washington was close behind with 83 points, also an "A." Rounding out the top five states were Rhode Island (64.5 points), Hawaii (62 points), and Ohio (61.5 points).

CHECK OUT: Used Car Lemon Laws: What Are They?

New Jersey scored perfect 10s in three of the categories: basic presumption, which creates presumption or qualification to consider a vehicle a lemon; state-run arbitration, which provides a fairer shake to consumers than manufacturer-sponsored programs; and attorney fees. The state includes all attorney fees in arbitration, which makes it possible for low-income vehicle owners to file a lemon law case. Before lemon laws, battling an automaker could quickly turn costly for average consumers.

How poorly do the worst states perform? Illinois ranked in last place with a score of -3. The negative score comes from a combination of weak protections and bad provisions, such as the possibility consumers lose other rights by invoking the lemon law or having to go through the manufacturer's arbitration program first.

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