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A new car that gives you serious trouble soon after you buy it. To qualify for protection under state "lemon laws," the defect must be substantial--faulty brakes, for example--and must occur within a certain time or mileage period, usually 12,000 miles or one year, whichever comes first. In addition, you must give the manufacturer a few chances to fix the defect before the car will be considered a lemon for legal purposes. Once a car legally qualifies as a lemon, you usually have the option of getting a refund or a replacement vehicle, though you may have to go to arbitration or even sue to exercise this option.

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