Buying a car is a major purchase for most people. For this reason, it's important to educate yourself on car financing and selling tactics. Being well informed can save you money and stress in the long run. FindLaw's Lemon Law section covers a variety of topics to help you get the best possible deal on a new or used car. In this section you can find articles that will help you protect yourself before you even go to a dealership. You can also find state-specific lemon laws, an overview of extended car warranties, tips on how to buy a car, how to avoid auto dealer fraud, and when to contact a lawyer.
What Is a Lemon?
Buying a car can be an exciting time. But, your excitement can be cut short if there is something wrong with the car. Lemon laws deal with the problem of irreversibly malfunctioning new cars. These types of laws provide consumer protection to those who have purchased a lemon. However, just because you think your car is a lemon doesn't mean it qualifies as a lemon under the law.
Each state has its own lemon laws, so it's important to check with the laws of your state to see if you car qualifies as a lemon. While the specifics of each state's lemon laws will vary, there is a general framework of lemon laws. Generally, a car will be considered a lemon if the car:
1. Has a "substantial defect" (covered by warranty) that occurs within a specific period of time after the purchase, and
2. Continues to have the defect even after a "reasonable number" of attempted repairs.
The substantial defect and reasonable number of repair attempts will depend on the definitions in your state. In most states, a substantial defect is one that is covered under an express warranty and affects a serious function or expectation of the car. In the event that there is such a defect, the manufacturer and/or dealer is usually given a reasonable number of attempts to repair the problem before a car is classified as a lemon. Again, each state has its own definition of how many repair attempts is reasonable.
Consumer Protection and Remedies
In addition to state lemon laws, there is also a federal law that protects buyers who purchase any product that costs more than $25 and comes with a written warranty. Known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, this Act is designed to prevent manufacturers from creating grossly unfair warranties. The Act also provides an avenue to bring an action to recover any attorneys' fees incurred during a lawsuit. An attorney can help you figure out if the terms of your warranty rise to the level of grossly unfair.
In the event that your car meets the qualifications for being a lemon, then you fall under the protection of lemon laws and can either get a refund or a replacement car. The first thing you must do under a lemon law is contact the manufacturer, who should already have notice because of the attempted repairs. If you aren't satisfied with the settlement that the manufacturer offers, you will most likely have to go through arbitration before you can file a lawsuit against the manufacturer.
Hiring a Consumer Attorney
If you believe you have purchased a lemon and you find the lemon law process to be too difficult or the manufacturer is acting inappropriately, you can contact an attorney with experience dealing with lemons and manufacturers who can help you.