Did you know that 1% or about 150,000 of new cars manufactured each year are ‘lemons’? Buying a car is a major investment. You will be spending thousands to a million dollar on it so you have to make sure you are getting the car that meets your needs and requirements. But what if you already made a purchase when you found out that it has a major mechanical defect?
What’s left for you?
Fortunately, all car buyers in the United States are protected by the American Lemon Law. Under this law, consumers can get a refund or obtain a replacement vehicle once their original vehicle is determined to be a ‘lemon’.
What is a ‘lemon’? It is defined as a vehicle that doesn’t live up to the manufacturer’s warranty claims of being defect-free and reliable. Buyers of these products can either ask the manufacturer to fix their car, get a replacement or obtain a refund.
Federal & State Lemon Laws: Are there Key Differences?
Consumers all over the United States are protected by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a federal lemon law that does not only cover cars and vehicles but also ordinary consumer products like computers and household appliances.
Nonetheless, you should know that lemon laws are highly state-specific.
In most cases, your state will mediate between you and your car provider to get your vehicle repaired or replaced, or obtain a refund.
Take note, however, that the Lemon Laws in North Carolina, for example, are not always the same as that of California. The differences may lie on the qualifications, claim filing process, and burden of proof, among others. Understanding the lemon law in your state is very important as you don’t want to miss the deadlines or omit any requirements in your filing. The state law also defines what a “major defect” is and what constitutes “reasonable number of repair attempts”. Therefore, a car considered as ‘lemon’ in one state may not be the same in another state.
Thus, the moment you suspect a major defect in your vehicle, do check the lemon laws in your state. A car is an expensive purchase and surely, you don’t want to keep something you can’t drive.
What Qualifies as a “Lemon” Car?
While there might be some differences as mentioned above, there are general rules that are considered when determining whether a car is a lemon or not.
- The car must have a major or substantial defect that is covered by the warranty. Such defect should have occurred under a certain period of time or within a specified mileage limit. A substantial defect may be defined as a problem covered by the warranty that impairs the vehicle’s use, value, or safety (e.g. faulty brakes or steering).
- Have not been fixed despite a reasonable number of repair attempts.
While lemon laws usually apply in new cars, in some states, they may also be applied on used cars.
Lemon Law Remedies
If your vehicle meets the lemon law requirements in your state, you have the right to file for replacement or reimbursement. In most cases, dealerships are responsible for reviewing your case and deciding whether the car you purchased was lemon or not. However, no dealership will want to admit that they actually sold a lemon. If your dealership is hard to deal with or refuses to declare that your car is a lemon, you may consider hiring an experienced attorney to handle your case.
How to file a Lemon Law Consumer Complaint
- Contact the dealer. If you suspect that your car is a lemon, you should first get in touch with your dealer and give them the chance to repair it. Document all repairs performed in your car, including the dates it was repaired and what specific repairs were done.
- Request for repurchase or replacement. If after a series of repairs the car has not been fixed, you can request that the manufacturer replace it or give you a refund. The replacement should be identical or at least equivalent in value to your vehicle. The manufacturer should also pay you an amount equal to any incidental expenses incurred while you were having it fixed.
- Choose a dispute resolution program. Manufacturers different arbitration programs and in most cases, they will select an arbitration program for you. You can also choose a state consumer protection agency program, a private arbitration program, or an in-house one. The BBB also offers a lemon dispute resolution program which is a free service covering new vehicle warranty disputes.
- Contact a qualified attorney when necessary. In some states, you may be allowed to file a lemon law complaint on your own while in other states, you may be required to hire an attorney to help with the process.
You don’t want to be one of the unlucky fellows who get to buy one of the 150,000 lemons each year. But you never know. That’s why it is important to be prepared and most of all, INFORMED.