Can Poor Gas Mileage Make My Car A Lemon?

Q: I purchased a new car six months ago. The gas mileage is horrible. I am probably getting 75% of what I’m supposed to get. I’ve taken it in to the dealer and reported this problem many times, and they just tell me they can’t find anything wrong. Do I have a lemon?

A: With gas prices what they are today, everyone is paying more attention to their gas mileage. If you’re not getting the mileage you expected, there’s a reason: no one else is either. That’s because the mileage figures posted on the window of a new car are ESTIMATES prepared by the EPA. They are usually quite inflated because they are based on a formula from 20 years ago that reflects perfect driving conditions and doesn’t take into account raised speed limits, traffic conditions, weather, individual driving styles and the like.

Thankfully, the EPA is revising its formula for gas mileage estimates on its 2008 models. These figures should be more realistic and should reflect more accurately real life mileage figures for all 2008 new vehicles.

So when you say “what I’m supposed to get,” you are probably basing that on the EPA estimate. The manufacturer has not promised the vehicle would get that mileage, and so it is very difficult to make a successful lemon law claim based on poor mileage. Your mileage has to be really bad, I mean REALLY bad, like maybe half of the EPA estimate, before we can establish that the vehicle has a defect. (Click here to see the text of Indiana’s lemon law and read what defects can make your car a lemon.)

While the mileage you’re getting is bad, I don’t think it rises to the level necessary to make your car a lemon. You might want to think about trading the vehicle in for a more fuel efficient model.

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