Almost all car dealers have warranties for a set period of time for new cars. Any problems that occur with the car within that time frame will be repaired for free.
Cars needing repair for the same problem multiple times are a different story. These are called "lemons" and lemon cars are the bane of all automobile owners.
All fifty states and the District of Columbia have laws on their books to protect consumers from lemons. These laws have requirements that must be met before the car can legally be declared a lemon. All lemon laws are generally based on the following criteria:
1. The problem began in the early period of vehicle ownership.
2. The consumer reported the problem to the dealer as soon as it began, and the problem must have been addressed under the manufacturer’s warranty.
3. The problem persisted after the dealer attempted to repair it three or more times.
4. The vehicle was significantly or substantially impaired in function or performance due to the problem.
A car is a lemon if it meets these criteria. The legal recourse available to the consumer varies depending on their state. The remedy to which the consumer is entitled also varies. The significance of the problem and how many times a repair was attempted determine the remedy.
The maximum remedy for a lemon is a full price repurchase of the vehicle. This includes the down payment, taxes, finance charges and tags.
Most states will allow a consumer who is sold a lemon to hire an attorney for free. The attorney can negotiate with the dealer on the owner’s behalf until the repurchase is settled.
This is a win-win situation for the owner: A loss means the attorney is not paid, while a win means the car manufacturer pays the attorney.
Another option is to recover some of the purchase cost through the federal Magnuson Moss Warranty Act . Essentially, if the customer repeatedly pays for repairs and the car continues to perform poorly, the manufacturer is said to violate the warranty. Under the Magnuson Moss statutes, a lawyer can attempt to recover the difference between the vehicle’s Kelly Blue Book value in excellent condition and its value in poor condition.
Like most state laws, the Magnuson Moss law stipulates that the manufacturer must pay the legal fees. Consumers must help their lawyer prove their case. Some applicable documents to gather to help your attorney include:
1. purchase and financing agreements
2. registration card
3. copies of all the repair orders
Without the repair orders, the onus is on the consumer. They need to detail the number of times a repair was attempted, the number of times the problem occurred and the number of times the problem reoccurred after the repair was made. Absent this information, it will be harder for their attorney to win their case.
If you own a lemon car and need to learn more about documentation and helping your attorney easily obtain a replacement vehicle for you, check out the Lawteryx consumer protection knowledge center and blog to learn more.
If you think you may have a lemon car, check out our article on how to identify if your car is a lemon today.
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