Vehicle Defects (Lemons)

If you are spending a lot of time at your mechanic’s shop because there is always something wrong with your car, you may have a lemon. Generally speaking, a "lemon" refers to a car with a manufacturer's defect that may affect its safety, use or value and it can refer to a new or used car.

What if you have a Lemon?

If you have a problem with a new or used car, first try to work it out with the dealer. You may be able to come to a solution directly with the dealer that sold you the car.

In other cases, you may need to work out the problem directly with the manufacturer. For example:

  • If your problem is related to a manufacturer's defect in assembly or material; or
  • There is an issue with how the manufacturer is applying or administering its new vehicle warranty.

If you can’t resolve the issue with the manufacturer directly, you may want to use the services of the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP). CAMVAP can help you resolve disputes with automobile manufacturers free of charge. If the arbitrator decides that the manufacturer is responsible they can order them to:

  • Repair the problem at their expense
  • Buy the vehicle back
  • Reimburse you for repairs that you already paid for
  • Reimburse you for out-of-pocket expenses.

If CAMVAP decides that the manufacturer is not responsible, consider fixing the vehicle at your own expense and using Small Claims Court to recover the cost of repairs or to rescind the contract. If you decide to proceed with this option, you should obtain legal advice first and bring an independent mechanic with you in cases where the dealer and you do not agree on facts related to the condition of the vehicle.

Purchasing a Vehicle Imported from the United States

If there is a problem with your vehicle and you have purchased it 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.

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 make sure that you do a maintenance history check that also includes maintenance history in the United States. Not all firms conduct searches that include U.S. maintenance history. Be sure to ask.

When buying used cars

When purchasing a used car—either from a dealer or privately— do some research first, look at reviews, or if it’s a used car ask to see the maintenance history. To get a used car’s vehicle history you will need to provide the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is located on the dashboard on the driver’s side of the car and is usually visible through the windshield.

If the used vehicle you are thinking of buying has been previously bought by the dealer in Canada, go to the CAMVAP website and enter the VIN to check whether the vehicle was subject to a manufacturer buyback in the past.

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.

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