Think you may have bought a "lemon"?

Have you recently purchased a car that always seems to have the same problem that no mechanic can fix? You may have bought a "lemon". Generally speaking, a "lemon" is a term often used to describe a vehicle with a manufacturer's defect that may affect its safety, use or value. The definition of a "lemon" can vary according to the jurisdiction of the vehicle.

What can you do?

While there are no "lemon laws" in Canada, there are measures in place to help if you think you may have purchased a defective vehicle.

New Vehicles

If your vehicle was made in last four years, you may consider using the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP). This program can help you resolve disputes with automobile manufacturers. Most vehicles purchased or leased in Canada are covered by CAMVAP. A few manufacturers are not part of CAMVAP and vehicles purchased from these manufacturers are not covered. Also, if you have purchased a vehicle in the United States or if the vehicle is not designed for the Canadian market then you are not covered under CAMVAP, unless the manufacturer agrees to the arbitration process. The resolutions under this program can range from reimbursement for repairs on the vehicle, to the manufacturer buying back the defective vehicle from you. For more information on CAMVAP, including a list of participating manufacturers, please visit: www.camvap.ca

Used Vehicles

The best way to avoid purchasing a "lemon" is to review the past maintenance history of the vehicle before purchasing. To do so, ask for the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the vehicle you are thinking of purchasing.

Used vehicle dealers may be selling used vehicles that they have previously purchased in Canada or sometimes that they have imported, most often from the United States.

If the used vehicle you are thinking of purchasing has been previously purchased by the dealer in Canada, go to CAMVAP to check whether the vehicle was subject to a manufacturer buyback in the past. You can also conduct a search of the vehicle maintenance history using the VIN of the vehicle. Some private firms will conduct searches of the maintenance history of a vehicle's for a fee. To find a firm, try searching "vehicle history report" in a search engine on the Internet.

If the used vehicle you are thinking of purchasing has been imported by the dealer from the United States, the dealer would have been required to obtain information from the manufacturer regarding any outstanding safety recalls, but this does not include the vehicle's status as a "lemon" in the United States. If you know that it is a vehicle imported from the United States ensure that you conduct a maintenance history check that also includes maintenance history in the U.S. Not all firms conduct searches that include U.S. maintenance history. Be sure to ask.

If you have unknowingly purchased a defective used vehicle from a Canadian auto dealer, you can contact your provincial or territorial consumer protection authorities. Whether the vehicle was originally purchased by the dealer in Canada or in the United States, consumers purchasing used vehicles in Canada from an auto dealer can check to see how they are protected by their province's or territory's consumer protection laws.

More Information

For more information about purchasing new or used vehicles, check out the Canadian Consumer Handbook or talk with your provincial or territorial consumer protection authorities.