Car Lemon Laws
Americans love the freedom that having their own car gives them. While most would prefer to buy a new car, many Americans buy used cars for a better price. But consumers beware! There are many unusable “lemon” cars on the market.
No matter how reputable the dealer is where you purchase your used car, the risk that the car you buy will have problems is one that consumers take. But a more serious concern is if the car you’ve recently purchased is a “lemon.” A lemon car is one that is unsafe to drive due to one or more serious problems. In order to be classified as a lemon, a car must have a major issue that makes it unable to be used.
Each state has laws known as “lemon laws” to protect consumers against unscrupulous dealers and manufacturers who are irresponsible designing, building, or selling cars. While the lemon laws vary state-to-state, most are based on the 1975 Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This precedent requires manufacturers and sellers to provide consumers with detailed, written explanations of warranties.
Lemon laws will generally cover the type of vehicle, number of unsuccessful repairs to be considered a lemon, and length of the warranty. But laws vary immensely state to state.
For example, the lemon laws in Virginia specify that any vehicle that has had three repairs or was not functional for thirty days within the warranty timeframe (18 months) is considered a lemon. Idaho has a lemon law that covers a warranty period of two years, or 24,000 miles, and allows four repairs, or thirty days without being functional.
If you think your vehicle might be a lemon, the first step you should take is to check your state’s lemon laws. Contact your state’s department that handles motor vehicles, and find out for yourself what the law says. If, after studying the law, you determine that you do have a lemon, you may head to court or for arbitration.
Make sure you have accurate records of all repairs and warranty information for your vehicle. By keeping careful documentation of repairs and problems, you will make the process of going to court or arbitration much less stressful and time-consuming.
At this point, you can find a lawyer to represent your case, or you can represent yourself in court or an out-of-court settlement. In the case of a dispute with the car’s manufacturer (if the vehicle is still under the manufacturer’s warranty) you should take the case to court. With the help of your lawyer, you can recover damages incurred because of this vehicle, though doing so can be quite expensive and is best avoided whenever possible.
If the dispute is with the dealership, getting your case to court may be difficult. An arbitration board is usually used to resolve such disputes, and you may represent yourself.
Whatever course of action you choose, you should never settle for owning a lemon car. The lemon laws are in place specifically to protect potentially vulnerable consumers from fraud in the automobile industry, and you should use them to ensure that you are treated fairly.