Recourse for vehicle defects

Have you recently bought a car with a defect that no mechanic can fix? You may have bought a "lemon".

A "lemon" is a term that describes a vehicle with a manufacturer's defect that may affect its safety, use or value. The definition of a "lemon" can vary according to where you live.

While there are no "lemon laws" in Canada, there are measures in place to help if you think you may have bought a defective vehicle. You have different options to get redress depending on the type of problem you may have with your vehicle.

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Redress options for a new vehicle

If you have a problem with a new vehicle, review your new vehicle warranty. New vehicles are covered by a manufacturer's warranty, which is included in the cost of the vehicle. This will help you determine whether the defect or issue is covered by the manufacturer at no cost to you.

The warranty terms can vary by manufacturer and may include the length of the coverage period and any specified exclusions. If you experience issues with how the new vehicle warranty is being applied, try to resolve the issue using the manufacturer's dispute resolution process described in your vehicle owner's manual or warranty booklet.

If you are unsure whether the problem with your new car is covered by the manufacturer's warranty, contact your dealer to go over your options.

During this process, you should also report any design or manufacturing safety defects to Transport Canada.

If you cannot resolve the issue with the manufacturer, you may look to seek redress through the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP). This program can help you resolve disputes with automobile manufacturers by providing binding arbitration that may be an alternative to court. The resolutions under this program can range from reimbursement for vehicle repairs to manufacturer buyback of the defective vehicle.

Most vehicles purchased or leased in Canada and made in the last four years are covered by CAMVAP. However, some manufacturers are excluded from the agreement. Furthermore, if you have purchased a vehicle in the United States, or a vehicle that isn't designed for the Canadian market, then you aren't covered under CAMVAP, unless the manufacturer agrees to the arbitration process.

Check the CAMVAP website for further information including a list of participating manufacturers.

Redress options for a used vehicle

Some auto dealers may also sell used vehicles previously purchased in Canada or imported from other countries. Whether the vehicle was originally purchased by the dealer in Canada or imported from elsewhere, consumers purchasing used vehicles from an auto dealer can check to see how they are protected in their province or territory. If you have unknowingly purchased a defective used vehicle from a Canadian auto dealer, contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.

Redress options for misrepresentation during the sale of a vehicle

If the problem you are having with your vehicle relates to an issue of misrepresentation at the point of sale, you can contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office for advice.

Small Claims Court redress for a "lemon"

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

Trusted consumer information

Published by the Consumer Measures Committee, a working group of federal, provincial and territorial governments, that helps educate and inform Canadian consumers.


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