Is there a setoff for reasonable use of the vehicle in lemon law?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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Lemon law, which is designed to protect consumers in the case of a defective vehicle purchase, typically contains what is referred to as a “setoff for reasonable use,” or a “subtraction for reasonable use.” Exactly what this setoff will be varies by location, because each state has its own particular lemon law that will apply to vehicles purchased in that state.

In general, under lemon law, the setoff for reasonable use is used in situations where the defect in the vehicle is not fixable and where it renders the car unusable. In such instances, based on the lemon law in most states, the manufacturer will likely be required to take the vehicle back from the consumer. When this occurs, under lemon law in most states, the manufacturer pays the consumer his or her money back, but the manufacturer does not do so based on the original purchase price because in many cases, the vehicle was owned and driven for years before the defect became known. Instead, a setoff for reasonable use of the vehicle is taken into account when assessing how much a driver should receive for his lemon car under lemon law.

Thus, the setoff for reasonable use under lemon law is defined as the reasonable allowance of value depreciation based on typical usage of the vehicle for the time period it has been driven. This amount is calculated and subtracted from the vehicle’s value, consequently from the amount of money paid back to the consumer. Under lemon law, most states calculate the setoff based on time owned, miles driven, and other basic formulas, but this will vary (sometimes a great deal) by area. Not all states allow for reasonable use setoffs in all situations under lemon law.

To determine what the lemon law rules are in your state or what remedies you are likely to receive as a result of your defective vehicle, it’s in your best interest to consult with a lawyer. 

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