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Defective Motor Vehicles (Lemon Law)
Purchasing a new car is a major consumer transaction for all of us, and a defective motor vehicle undoubtedly creates a hardship for the buyer. Fortunately, Iowa has a "Lemon Law" which is designed to resolve consumer motor vehicle warranty complaints within a specified period of time.

At the time a car is purchased, the manufacturer must provide to the consumer a written statement of the consumer’s rights and obligations under the "Lemon Law." The manufacturer has three chances to repair a defective car, or they may be notified to make a final attempt and, if unsuccessful, replace the car or refund the purchase price.

Manufacturers are also required to maintain informal dispute settlement programs to handle consumer complaints which occur during the first two years or 24,000 miles after purchase. It is important that you read and understand this information when you purchase a car, and you are encouraged to contact the Iowa Attorney General’s office for more information about this law.

Before Buying, SAVES

You have to remember some sellers, including dealers, may not know the whole history of a vehicle or, worse yet, may try to scam you. One of the best ways you can protect yourself from buying a lemon is not to take the seller’s word as the whole truth. Especially in the case of a private-party purchase of a used car, which is usually sold in an "as is” condition with no warranty other than possibly a continuing factory warranty, the following SAVES guidelines will help you purchase a safe car with confidence.

S – Second Opinion

Getting a second opinion from an unbiased, experienced mechanic you know and trust is an absolute must when buying a car. By spending a small amount of money on a mechanic’s inspection prior to purchasing, you can save a lot of money, time, and annoyance in the long run. If the seller permits the independent inspection, make sure your mechanic not only inspects under the hood but also uses the lift to inspect under the vehicle, where a lot of problems are apt to hide. Once you have the vehicle inspected and have the mechanic print out a detailed report, you will have more of an idea of the vehicle’s condition and, subsequently, its worth. Important note: if the seller doesn’t want to relinquish possession of the vehicle, offer to make an appointment for the two of you to meet with your chosen mechanic for the independent inspection of the vehicle. If the seller responds to your amended request with criticism, persuasion against, or outright refusal, walk away from the sale.

A – Analyze History
If you are still interested in the vehicle once the vehicle’s actual current condition has been evaluated, you should analyze the vehicle’s history for any hidden problems. You should check the vehicle’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), a 17-digit number placed on all vehicles made from 1981 on. If all instances of the VIN (on a metal strip on the dashboard, inside the driver side door on a factory sticker, the passenger door, the trunk, the hood, and sometimes on the engine) are not identical, then the vehicle may be stolen, rebuilt, or junked. If all instances of the VIN are identical, you should then use the VIN to obtain a Vehicle History Report from a reputable source. This report may be able to tell you if the vehicle has hidden problems such as an unclean title, previous major damage, or odometer rollbacks. Again, you may need to purchase this report for a small fee, but it could save you money later on.

V – Vehicle Worth
Next, you can further assess the vehicle’s worth by checking its Kelly Blue Book valuation. Kelly Blue Books are available in actual book form or conveniently online at This valuation will allow you to decide if the seller’s asking price is the fair market value, is a good bargain, or is over-inflated.

E – Experience it
Now that you know the truth about the vehicle’s condition, history, and worth, then the final, ultimate inspection is to take a test drive. When you go on a test drive, you should take your driver’s license, a friend to make notes during the test drive, and a test drive checklist, which you can obtain free from numerous online resources.

S – Sold!
Once you have a green light on all the steps listed above, you should feel comfortable in either walking away with no regrets or in opening your wallet and saying, "SOLD!” If the sale is then successfully negotiated, you should make sure that all Iowa Department of Transportation regulations have been satisfied (you can find these regulations online at and that you have insurance coverage before you put that key in your new vehicle for the first time.

Financial liability coverage is required, and proof of this insurance coverage must be carried in the vehicle. It is a good idea for you to see an insurance agent about the cost of liability insurance before you buy a car, as this is a "hidden cost" of car ownership. Your insurance agent can best advise you as to the coverage that is most appropriate for your needs. If a driver is unable to provide proof of liability coverage, an officer has the wide discretion between issuing a warning to issuing a citation and impounding the vehicle.
The insurance coverage must include at least $20,000 of coverage for bodily injury to or death of one person in any one accident and $40,000 for bodily injury to or death of two or more persons in any one accident and $15,000 for property damage in any one accident. Although insurance rates are high for young people, you may be able to find discounts for good grades in school or having a good driving record.

If you are driving a car and are involved in an accident, you have various responsibilities depending on what sort of injuries or damages result from the accident. If there is a death or personal injury, you must immediately report this to the police, sheriff, or highway patrol. If there is a death, personal injury, or property damage in excess of $500, you must file a written report of the accident within 72 hours to the Iowa Department of Transportation. The required accident report forms are available from law enforcement officers. As a practical matter, under these rules almost every accident should be reported. So, if you are uncertain, you should go ahead and report the accident, as there are penalties for not reporting when required.