Did you recently buy a new car only to find that something isn’t right about it? May be it stalls as you approach a red light or perhaps it’s the brakes, the steering or a botched paint job? In most cases, your dealer will fix these problems for free under a warranty. However, sometimes the car can’t be fixed even after several tries. Perhaps that’s when you realize that you were sold a lemon car.
The prospect of buying a lemon is often overwhelming. Whom do you ask for help? The manufacturer or the dealer? Rest assured, the manufacturer is not going to take your car back and the dealer can only “try” to fix the problem. However, how can you get the value for your money? Here’s when your state’s lemon laws comes in.
What Is a Lemon?
Lemon laws protect consumers’ interest when it comes to compensating for cars and other consumer goods that repeatedly fail to meet the standard quality and performance. These are state laws and each U.S. state has its own lemon law. It is therefore essential to understand how your particular state’s lemon law works before you file a claim under this state law.
To determine whether you were sold a lemon car or not you first need to evaluate your case as minutely as lawyers do. There are basically two types of legal remedies available if you are fooled into buying a lemon:
1. Use your state lemon laws
2. Use a Breach of Warranty (BOW) claim
In general, lemon laws in the U.S. are based on the following criteria:
- The problem(s) started soon after you bought the car.
- Your dealer was immediately notified about the problem(s) and the same was addressed by the dealer under your manufacturer’s warranty.
- Although your dealer tried to fix it, the problem(s) persisted repeatedly.
- The problem(s) is affecting considerably the use, value or safety of the car.
In order to file a lemon, you need to prove your car has these problems. Moreover, proving them is not as daunting as it sounds. For instance, a typical car problem (especially the one that persisted repeatedly) will undoubtedly affect either the use, value, or safety of the car; and you just need to satisfy one factor to qualify as a lemon car.
In addition, you need to prove that you have given the dealer or the manufacturer many opportunities to fix the problem(s). This too is pretty easy to prove. Each time you send your car to the dealer, it is considered as a repair opportunity whether the dealer does any actual repair work or not. In general, three or four visits to the dealer or 30 or more cumulative days in a service center or a repair facility for the same problem is considered as a reasonable amount of time.
However, the definition for a substantial defect and a reasonable number of attempts to fix the problem(s) varies by state. It is therefore essential to verify the law in your state before you file for a lemon claim.
What to Do If You Have a Lemon?
If you are sure that you have a lemon and would like to get a legal help, here are a few steps to follow:
- Collect all your car repair orders.
- Organize them in chronological order.
- Summarize each of your repair order complaints individually.
- Group your common complaints according to your repair visits.
- Count how many times your common complaints appear on your repair orders and/or the total number of days your car was in the repair facility.
This will help your lawyer to evaluate whether or not your car qualifies under the lemon law. Although some states allow you to file a lemon claim with proper documentation without involving any lawyer, having an experienced lemon law attorney by your side will help you gain a competitive advantage with the process. You can either get recommendations from friends/family or search online by entering the words like lemon law lawyers near me at Google.com to find such lawyers in your community.
Legal Remedy for a Lemon Car
The maximum remedy you can get under lemon laws is the repurchase of the vehicle by the manufacturer. It includes down payment, finance charges, and taxes you have paid for the car. In certain cases, a small mileage offset is deducted (i.e. how many miles you drove the car before your reported the problem) from the compensation amount. However, the maximum remedy under lemon laws differ slightly from state to state; it is therefore recommended to inquire before filing.
Lemon Laws and Used Cars
The above information about lemon laws covers only new car sales and leases. However, some states including New York, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Connecticut also have a lemon law to cover old and used cars. In these states, the laws protect consumers by providing a used car warranty, which is usually based upon the mileage or the age of the car.
If your used car starts exhibiting problems during the warranty period, your dealers needs to fix them. However, if those problems are not fixed even after several attempts, your used car dealer needs to either replace the vehicle or refund the purchase amount.
There is no need to stay burdened with something that spends more time at the repair facility than on the roads, even if you ended up buying a lemon car. An experienced lemon law lawyer can help protect your rights and you can get the refund from the manufacturer. All you need to do is send a written complain to the car manufacturer and your state’s department of consumer protection or attorney general along with all the proper documents. While we hope that you’ll never have to use these services, it’s always good to know they’re available if required.