What is the Indiana Lemon Law?

by Harry Bradley on April 29, 2014

Indiana Lemon LawThe Lemon Law exists to help you, the consumer, but myths abound regarding covered products, claim requirements and benefits. This article seeks to dispel common misconceptions and clarify what the lemon law is, and isn’t. Copied below are the Indiana Code sections dealing with the lemon law, along with plain language annotations and section-end summaries to assist those seeking relief. Are you still within the term of protection? Have you provided the dealer with a reasonable opportunity to cure? Can you demand a buyback? What then?

The Indiana Lemon Law simplified

Many sites post the lemon law statute in its entirety without further explanation. This cut-and-paste may be helpful in an academic sense, but doesn’t answer the primary question prompting the search in the first place: “Does it help me?” Indiana’s Lemon Law is distilled below into its primary sections with explanations included in each to clarify function and application. The original quoted text is unchanged with only minor redactions where appropriate for clarity, and noted as “…” The original text (copied below) can be found at the Indiana General Assembly Code Index IC 24-5-13 Indiana Motor Vehicle Protection Act.

This article addresses these common questions:
(see sections below)

What is Covered?
How Long Does Lemon Law Coverage Last?
What Defects are Covered?
How Long Does the Dealer Have to Repair?
What if a Defect is Not Repaired?
How Do I File a Lemon Law Claim?

Further information and links to additional reading can also be found here: (sections at the end of this article)

Additional Consumer Protection Laws
Additional Information and FAQ

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What is Covered?

The lemon law covers highway driven trucks and automobiles purchased or leased in Indiana weighing less than 10,000 lbs. A Ford F-350 one-ton pickup, for example, weighs in at about 6,500 lbs. so the family sedan, SUVs, sports cars, minivans, electric vehicle and basically every daily driver you can think of are covered. Excluded from coverage are specialty vehicles like motorcycles, RVs, construction and agricultural equipment, and anything else that is really, really heavy. The statutory definition for protected motor vehicle is copied below:

IC 24-5-13-5 "Motor vehicle" and "vehicle"
 As used in this chapter, "motor vehicle" or "vehicle" means any self-propelled vehicle that:
 (1) has a declared gross vehicle weight of less than ten thousand (10,000) pounds;
 (2) is sold to: (A) a buyer in Indiana and registered in Indiana; or (B) a buyer in Indiana who is not an Indiana resident;
 (3) is intended primarily for use and operation on public highways; and
 (4) is required to be registered or licensed before use or operation.

The term does not include conversion vans, motor homes, farm tractors, and other machines used in the actual production, harvesting, and care of farm products, road building equipment, truck tractors, road tractors, motorcycles, mopeds, snowmobiles, or vehicles designed primarily for off-road use.

IC 24-5-13-1 Application of chapter
 This chapter applies to all motor vehicles that are sold, leased, transferred, or replaced by a dealer or manufacturer in Indiana.

SUMMARY: All typical, daily use, household autos purchased in Indiana are covered. Some commercial models as well.

How Long Does Lemon Law Coverage Last?

Coverage begins on the date the auto is first used by the owner (or lessee), and ends after eighteen months if no problems occur. If the owner does have problems and reports them to the dealer within the first eighteen months, a claim can be filed up to two years from the time the problem is first reported. In other words, an Indiana Lemon Law claim can potentially be filed up to three-and-a-half years from the date of original vehicle purchase. The statutory times are copied below:

IC 24-5-13-7 "Term of protection"
 As used in this chapter, "term of protection" means a period of time that:
 (1) begins: (A) on the date of original delivery of a motor vehicle to a buyer; and
 (2) ends the earlier of: (A) eighteen (18) months after the date identified under subdivision (1); or (B) the time the motor vehicle has been driven eighteen thousand (18,000) miles after the date identified under subdivision (1).
IC 24-5-13-23 Limitations
 An action brought under this chapter must be commenced within two (2) years following the date the buyer first reports the nonconformity to the manufacturer, its agent, or authorized dealer.

Note the term of protection doesn’t start until the auto is first put into service by the end consumer meaning that a vehicle older than eighteen months (18) with more than eighteen-thousand (18,000) miles can still be protected. It’s a subtle distinction, but important if you purchased a dealer demo with three or four-thousand miles already on the odometer and are worried that protection is cut short due to existing mileage – it isn’t!

SUMMARY: If a problem occurs within 18 months or 18,000 miles from the in-service date, you may file a claim within two years from the date of the first repair order.

What Defects are Covered?

The Indiana Lemon Law doesn’t use the term defect and instead uses the term “nonconformity.” Don’t get hung up on the difference. The use of nonconformity is meant to broaden the scope of protection rather than narrow it. Defects are definitely covered, but so are other conditions which may have resulted from something other than faulty workmanship. Improper engineering (ex: corroding electrical connections in an exposed area) and improper shipping (ex: rail dust) are two examples of problem origination that are covered, but which may not be the result of sub-standard parts or assembly. The statute defines nonconformity below:

IC 24-5-13-6 "Nonconformity"
 As used in this chapter, "nonconformity" means any specific or generic defect or condition or any concurrent combination of defects or conditions that:
 (1) substantially impairs the use, market value, or safety of a motor vehicle; or
 (2) renders the motor vehicle nonconforming to the terms of an applicable manufacturer's warranty.

SUMMARY: If it doesn’t start, move, stop, steer, sound, smell, or feel right, it’s probably a covered nonconformity.

How Long Does the Dealer Have to Repair?

The dealer must repair your vehicle within a reasonable amount of time once you tell them about a problem. Reasonable is defined by statute as four (4) repair attempts or thirty (30) total days in the shop, excluding Sundays and holidays. If the dealer can’t or won’t repair the problem then the manufacturer is in violation of the lemon law and you are entitled to file a claim.

IC 24-5-13-8 Repair of nonconformities
 If a motor vehicle suffers from a nonconformity and the buyer reports the nonconformity within the term of protection to the manufacturer of the vehicle, its agent, or its authorized dealer then the manufacturer of the motor vehicle or the manufacturer's agent or authorized dealer shall make the repairs that are necessary to correct the nonconformity, even if the repairs are made after expiration of the term of protection.
 IC 24-5-13-15 Attempts to correct nonconformity; reasonable number of attempts
 (a) A reasonable number of attempts is considered to have been undertaken to correct a nonconformity if: (1) the nonconformity has been subject to repair at least four (4) times by the manufacturer or its agents or authorized dealers, but the nonconformity continues to exist; or (2) the vehicle is out of service by reason of repair of any nonconformity for a cumulative total of at least thirty (30) business days, and the nonconformity continues to exist.

SUMMARY: The reasonable amount of time allotted to a dealer to fix the problem is four (4) repair attempts or thirty (30) days out of service. If the problem persists you may file a claim.

What if a Defect is Not Repaired?

When a reported nonconformity is not repaired within a reasonable amount of time you are entitled to return the vehicle for a refund or a replacement vehicle, your choice, plus attorney’s fees and costs (see below).

IC 24-5-13-10 Return of vehicle upon failure to correct nonconformity
 If, after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer, its agent, or authorized dealer is unable to correct the nonconformity, the manufacturer shall accept the return of the vehicle from the buyer and … refund the amount paid by the buyer or provide a replacement vehicle of comparable value.

SUMMARY: Ongoing, uncorrected defects entitle the owner to a refund or a replacement vehicle.

How Do I File a Lemon Law Claim?

Vehicle owners are entitled to pursue a claim for refund or a replacement vehicle after meeting the above criteria for nonconformity and time out of service. Sometimes the manufacturer voluntarily provides the refund or replacement, sometimes they refuse. Often, manufacturers make an offer containing unfavorable terms and conditions like offsets and withholdings which are not part of the lemon law refund calculation and are merely an attempt to reach an agreement for less than their full legal repurchase obligation. If the manufacturer makes no offer or one that doesn’t meet its obligations, you may have to pursue a lemon law claim. The good news is that the statute also entitles to your own legal counsel to pursue a claim at the manufacturer’s expense, along with any court costs related the claim. The code sections providing additional fees, costs, and expenses are copied below:

IC 24-5-13-21 Civil enforcement actions
 A buyer may bring a civil action to enforce this chapter in any circuit or superior court.
IC 24-5-13-22 Costs and expenses in recovery actions
 A buyer who prevails in any action brought under this chapter is entitled to recover as part of the judgment a sum equal to the aggregate amount of cost and expenses, including attorney's fees … reasonably incurred by the buyer for or in connection with the commencement and prosecution of the action.

The steps taken to pursue a claim would fill a separate article all by itself so for this I’ll merely quote the statute. An additional posting describing the process in more detail can be found here: How to File Lemon Law in Indiana.

SUMMARY: Any Circuit or Superior Court in Indiana has the authority to hear a lemon law claim, and award a full repurchase or replacement per statute plus attorney’s fees and costs to the consumer.

Additional Consumer Protections Laws

While not technically part of the lemon law, additional statutes exist to assist consumers who experience product defects, but might not otherwise meet the above criteria to file a lemon claim. Depending on your product type or age, the below will work just as well or better than their more famous, fruity-mascot featuring cousin, but accomplish their consumer protection mission in slightly different ways.

Magnuson-Moss Federal Warranty Act, 15 U.S. Code § 2301 et seq.
The lemon law’s time limitation requiring notice of a problem within the first eighteen months or eighteen-thousand miles is the most common disqualifier for lemon law claims. This causes much anxiety when most vehicle warranties today are three years or longer and a problem arises which is covered under the warranty but, perplexingly, not covered under the lemon law. No matter, the federal warranty act covers owners of warranted products up to four years from the date of sale or throughout the duration of the powertrain or extended warranty, whichever is longer. Also, the Federal Warranty Act covers any household product. Remember that list of products not covered under the Indiana Lemon Law: RVs, motorcycles, etc? Use the Federal Warranty Act instead!

Assistive Devices Warranties or Wheelchair Lemon Law, IC 24-5-20-1
This Act is even more demanding for manufacturers than the normal lemon law due to the additional hardships caused by the failure of these types of products. The owner of an assistive device, a motorized wheelchair for example, need only provide two (2) repair attempts to fix the problem, instead of the traditional four, before demanding a replacement or refund. If you’re experiencing trouble with “Any device that enables an individual with a disability to communicate, see, hear, or maneuver” make your demand for replacement sooner. You don’t have to wait.

Breach of Warranty under the Commercial Code, IC 26-1-2-101 This section is used primarily for non-household products or disputes between commercial entities. Commercial, industrial, agricultural, construction and other equipment is covered under the commercial code warranty sections instead of the consumer code sections. The required elements for breach of warranty and the remedies available are identical to the consumer version except that a claimant must pay his or her own costs and attorney’s fees. Otherwise, the owner of a defective, warranted product can seek a replacement or refund similar to the lemon law or the Federal Warranty Act.

Deceptive Consumer Sales Act IC, 24-5-0.5-1
The purpose of this code section deviates considerably from the above cited warranty-centered statutes, but can and ought to be used when promises were made and broken by the seller about any material element of the product. It’s also called the Indiana Consumer Fraud statute and is valuable in circumstances where no warranty was given, but the seller makes misleading statements or conceals material information about a product. If you purchased a vehicle with prior undisclosed frame damage, a branded title, or even a cracked engine block, an AS-IS disclaimer does not necessarily shield the seller from liability and you may be able to pursue a claim.

Additional Information and FAQ

See the FAQ section of this site for more information and answers to common questions including the following:

What if I didn’t buy my vehicle in Indiana?
What if I use my vehicle for business?
Are leased vehicles covered?
Are demo vehicles protections limited?
Are safety concerns treated differently?
The dealer has replaced four different parts but I think it’s still the same problem, am I covered?
What if each repair order says no problem found or operating as designed, am I covered?

Time to File a Lemon Law Claim

If you have taken your vehicle to the dealer on at least four occasions and the problem isn’t fixed, you are now eligible to make a claim under the lemon law and potentially one of the additional consumer protection statutes mentioned above. The manufacturer has a lengthy opportunity to repair any problems before you can make a claim, so once you’ve given the dealer its chance to fix and problems continue, use the lemon law and start working on your own fix. Please contact an attorney to discuss your options.

The lemon law entitles you to your own legal counsel at the manufacturer’s expense so there’s no reason not to make a call and find someone to help. Also, most consumer attorneys provide the initial consultation at no-cost so even if you don’t have a case yet, you’re only out the phone call and you will have gained better information on your position.

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