The Consumer Protection Division generally oversees manufacturer compliance with Iowa's Defective Motor Vehicles Law, also known as the Lemon Law. The Lemon Law is designed to allow car owners to pursue complaints on their own. We hope this information will help answer your questions about the Lemon Law. For independent legal advice, you should consider contacting a private attorney.
Your vehicle may qualify under the Lemon Law if one or more of the following conditions have been met:
- The vehicle has been in the shop three or more times for the same problem and the problem still exists;
- The vehicle has been in the shop one time by reason of a defect likely to cause death or substantial bodily injury and the problem still exists; or
- The vehicle has been out of service for any number of problems 20 or more days, and a problem still exists. The days out of service do not need to be consecutive.
To qualify under the Lemon Law, the problem or defect has to render the vehicle unfit, unreliable, or unsafe for ordinary use or significantly diminish the value of the vehicle, and has to have occurred during the Lemon Law rights period.
The Lemon Law rights period is defined by the law as the term of the manufacturer's written warranty, the period ending two years after the date of the original delivery of a new motor vehicle to a consumer, or the first 24,000 miles of operation attributed to a consumer, whichever expires first.
If you meet the qualifications above, then you must notify the manufacturer by certified, registered, or overnight mail and give the manufacturer one more chance to fix the problem. Your notice must go directly to the manufacturer (contact the manufacturer if you are unsure of the correct address).
The Motor Vehicle Defect Notification printable form can be used as your notification to the manufacturer. Keep a copy of the completed form and any other materials you mail to the manufacturer.
In order to support your allegations, keep copies of all repair orders for each time the vehicle has been in the repair facility for repair or diagnosis. For warranty repairs, repair facilities are required to provide you with a fully itemized, legible statement or repair order indicating any diagnosis made, and all work performed on the motor vehicle, including a general description of the problem reported by the consumer, the date and the odometer reading when the motor vehicle was submitted for examination or repair, and the date when the repair or examination was completed.
You should include copies of these documents with your letter to the manufacturer, and a statement of what you want done to resolve your complaint. Inform the manufacturer that you seek a reply within ten days of receipt of your letter. The manufacturer should then contact you with the name and address of a repair facility that is accessible to you where a final attempt will be made to repair your vehicle. If the manufacturer does not contact you within ten days, you are not required to give the manufacturer another chance to fix the vehicle.
If the manufacturer fails to respond within ten days, or the repair facility chosen by the manufacturer is unable to fix the problem during the final repair attempt, you can request that the manufacturer replace the vehicle or refund the purchase price, less a reasonable offset for your use of the vehicle.
If after taking these steps your complaint remains unsatisfied, you may file a lawsuit against the manufacturer under the Lemon Law. However, if the manufacturer has a certified dispute program, you must proceed through the program before filing suit. If the manufacturer's program is not certified, you may still choose to submit your claim to the program and, possibly, avoid costly litigation. Click here for a list of certified and non-certified manufacturer dispute resolution programs.
You must file a lawsuit under the Lemon Law within one year following the expiration of the manufacturer's express warranty, or one year following the first 24,000 miles attributed to a consumer, or one year following the first 24 months of ownership, whichever occurs first. To file a Lemon Law lawsuit, contact a private attorney.
You may have other legal recourse against the manufacturer, even if your vehicle does not qualify under the Lemon Law. Contact a private attorney for further information. To view the full text of Iowa's Lemon Law (Iowa Code Chapter 322G: Defective Motor Vehicles), click here.
To report or inquire about a vehicle safety issue, contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at www.safercar.gov, or call the U.S. Department of Transportation's Vehicle Safety Hotline, toll-free, at 1-888-327-4236 (or 1-800-424-9153 for hearing impaired callers).
888-777-4590 (outside of the Des Moines metro area)
Office of the Attorney General of Iowa
Consumer Protection Division
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0106