Lemon Laws (kind of) protect new and used RV buyers. This is how they REALLY work

If you have purchased a new or used RV, only to have your rig stuck in the shop for weeks or months for warranty repairs, you may have a “lemon.” If your dealer/warranty repair shop repeatedly tries and fails to repair the problem(s), you do have a lemon by definition.

Definition of a lemon vehicle or RV is in Lemon Laws

The definition is in the “Lemon Laws” enacted by the states. A U.S. federal lemon law generally applies, even if the state laws are not applicable or are ineffective in addressing your specific situation.

Each state has a consumer protection “Lemon Law” on the books, and some states’ statutes cover more potential manufacturer defects than others. Some of the state laws are in favor of the RV manufacturer or seller. There is a lot of language in these laws that protect the RV manufacturer and dealer’s warranty repair shop. Yet, the essential intent of these laws is to protect consumers, and, to some degree, they provide relief for the buyer of the chronically broken RV.

One of the typical requirements of the lemon laws is that the product (vehicle) has a value of $25 or greater and is covered by an express (written) warranty. Suppose an RV buyer experiences extended periods where the RV is in the shop undergoing repair of defects and discrepancies not covered by the state statute; there is a federal lemon law, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.


The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is different in some respects from most state lemon laws.

Number of “repair attempts”

Most state laws incorporate a trigger for applicability by the number of repair attempts made under the vehicle warranty, within a specified time, such as 12 or 24 months, and may require that the “repair attempts” address the same defect. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act contains a broader definition, in that repair attempts to repair different discrepancies count in calculating the number of repair attempts over time.

The type of vehicles

Many state lemon laws apply only to new cars, light trucks, and SUVs. The federal lemon law applies to used vehicles as well. Among those states that do include RVs in their lemon laws, many impose arbitrary restrictions that hamper the applicability of the statutes for RV owners. An example of such limitations: Restricting the statutory applicability to vehicles of 10,000 pounds or less and limiting lemon law coverage only to chassis components, i.e., excluding all the “livability” items inside the coach cabin, such as furnaces, water heaters, lighting, air conditioners, and appliances.

New AND used vehicles

The federal law, unlike most state laws, applies to both new and used vehicles.

Warranty and arbitration

Another difference in the federal lemon law is relief for mandatory arbitration requirements instead of civil litigation. Mandatory arbitration requirements are rare in express warranties. Unless disclosed in the contract, there is no requirement to submit a case to arbitration under the federal statute unless such provision is incorporated into the written warranty and clearly stated.

Owned AND leased vehicles

State lemon laws often exclude leased vehicles. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act specifically includes them.


Most state lemon laws provide only for the recovery of the purchase price of the lemon vehicle. Interestingly, damages under federal law allow for a plaintiff to receive the difference between what the purchaser paid for the vehicle at the time of purchase, and what the price would have been had the defects been known at the time of purchase.

With the dramatic increase in the number of RVs being manufactured in response to soaring demand, warranty issues have substantially increased. Some RV buyers are experiencing frustrating, protracted wait times for their RVs to get fixed. The lemon laws are complex and marked by time elements and the whole “number of repair attempts” matrix. Consequently, there are law firms that have established a practice specialty in RV lemon law, such as the Burdge Law Office. The firm’s website addresses the specifics of lemon law, RV recall and defect information, and representation for aggrieved RV buyers.

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