You purchase a brand-new vehicle to avoid the issues that sometimes accompany older models. With a new car, you know exactly what you’re getting into. That’s unless your new car is a lemon.
It’s what the car industry calls a new vehicle riddled with problems from top to bottom, with no apparent solutions. According to Nolo, an estimated 1% of new cars manufactured each year — about 150,000 — are lemons.
Fortunately, there are ways to deal with what seems like a never-ending headache.
What Is a Lemon?
The car you’ve been dreaming of is now sitting in your driveway glistening in the sunlight, so you decide to take it for a spin. You get in, push the start button and hit the road. Five minutes into your ride, the electrical system goes haywire and the car shuts down.
Infuriated, you take it to the dealership to get it repaired, under warranty and at no cost to you. The following week, the car shuts down again. The malfunctions and emergency service appointments continue unabated. Why can’t they figure out how to fix it?
It looks like you have a lemon on your hands. Your vehicle is a problem on wheels and practically unsafe on the roadway.
According to Daily Finance, vehicles should meet these criteria to be considered under state lemon laws:
- The problem started early on in your ownership of the vehicle.
- You reported this problem promptly to the dealer and it was addressed under your manufacturer’s warranty.
- The problem persisted (repeatedly, normally three or more times) after the dealer tried to fix it.
- The problem is causing substantial impairment in the vehicle’s use, value or safety.
You can also take the online questionnaire offered by the law firm of Kimmel & Silverman to see if your car might qualify under the lemon law.
Lemon Laws to the Rescue
After months of dissatisfaction, you feel hopeless and are unsure how to proceed. That’s when the lemon laws kick in to protect you.
For starters, you’re entitled to legal representation at no cost to you. Says Daily Finance:
Thanks to lemon laws in all 50 states (and Washington, D.C.) you can probably hire a lawyer for free who will arrange for the dealer to buy back your car. If an attorney who specializes in lemon laws loses your case, they don’t get paid. If they win, it’s the car manufacturer who pays the legal fees.
Because the laws vary by state, you should check with your local consumer protection agency to determine how to proceed. It’s also important to note that some state laws also cover used vehicles.
What happens next? Nolo says:
If your car meets the lemon law requirements for your state, you have the right to obtain a refund or replacement car from the manufacturer. Although the process for getting this relief is different in each state, in all states you must first notify the manufacturer of the defect. If you’re not offered a satisfactory settlement, most states require you to go to arbitration before going to court.
So, either way, you won’t be stuck with a dysfunctional vehicle if your car qualifies.
Breach of Warranty Claim
Don’t qualify under the lemon laws? The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act may provide some form of relief.
According to the Federal Trade Commission:
A warranty is a promise, often made by a manufacturer, to stand behind its product or to fix certain defects or malfunctions over a period of time. The warranty pays for any covered repairs or part replacements during the warranty period.
If a car continues to have issues after multiple repair attempts, the dealership technically isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. You should seek legal representation, which is available free of charge.
The remedies available to consumers under the federal law are similar to those of state lemon laws. Kimmel & Silverman’s website, LemonLaw.com, says:
Remedy under state lemon laws and federal warranty laws could include a complete repurchase of the vehicle, including taxes, tags, finance charges, and down payment; an MSRP to MSRP swap; or significant monetary compensation to reflect the diminished value of the vehicle as a result of the defect plus continued ownership of the vehicle.
What to Do if You Have a Lemon on Your Hands
USA.gov recommends that you take these steps if you believe your vehicle fits the bill:
- Give the dealer a list of the problems every time you bring it in for repairs.
- Get and keep copies of the repair orders listing the problems, the work done, and the dates the car was in the shop.
- Contact the manufacturer, as well as the dealer, to report the problem. Check your owner’s manual or the directory for the auto manufacturers.
- Help other consumers avoid purchasing your lemon by registering it at safetyforum.com.
Other helpful resources
Here are a few additional resources to help you understand lemon and federal warranty laws:
- Better Business Bureau
- The Center for Auto Safety
Once you’ve done your homework and presented your argument to the dealership, promptly seek legal counsel if the dealer refuses to take the problematic vehicle off your hands.
This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.
More from Money Talks News:
- Got a Money Problem? The Solution Is Right Next to You
- 10 Tips for Buying Your Next Car for Less
- Don’t Buy These Popular Cars