Think Your New Car is a Lemon? Here's What You Need to Know
Monday, June 10, 2019 1:50 PM
WILTON, CT / ACCESSWIRE / June 10, 2019 / Unless you're a homeowner, buying a new vehicle is likely the largest purchase you'll ever make. Whether you're dropping $20,000 on a Kia Soul or $80,000 on a Tesla, you undoubtedly believe that your sweet new ride will be worry-free. While that might seem like a reasonable assumption, consider for a moment that a new vehicle has more than 15,000 component parts. At that point, it becomes a numbers game. Which component will fail first and will it have an impact on your car's drivability?
In the best-case scenario, you have tens of thousands of miles of carefree errands and road trips. In the nightmare scenario, something goes haywire and you find yourself at the dealership time and again. You're told that the problem is fixed, but it comes back with a vengeance. You eventually declare to anyone within shouting distance that you have a lemon on your hands. The question becomes, what's your recourse?
State Lemon Laws
Every state in the U.S. has a new car lemon law. Some states extend protections to leased vehicles, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, and even used cars. While each state's lemon law is different, they have similar provisions. Usually, lemon laws are applicable only to vehicles purchased for personal use. Company cars typically aren't covered.
The length of time a vehicle is covered varies by state, but it's always a certain length of time or a certain number of miles on the odometer - whichever comes first. For example, a new car lemon in Massachusetts covers vehicles within one year of delivery or 15,000 miles. In Connecticut, it's two years or 24,000 miles.
In order to be considered a lemon, the defects need to be "substantial." Again, definitions vary by state, but a sagging headliner or an upholstery flaw doesn't count. The defect has to affect the use, safety, or value of the vehicle.
You also must give the dealer or manufacturer the opportunity to repair the defect. The number of mandatory repair attempts differs state to state, but it's common to require you to take the vehicle in for repair three times for the same problem. Some states also consider a car a lemon when it's been taken in four or more times for a variety of problems. Others stipulate that a car that's been in the shop for a certain number of days - such as 30 days or more - is also a lemon.
State lemon laws require consumers to take certain actions if they believe they have a lemon. For example, you may have to notify the manufacturer or their agent in writing. The law might compel you to give the manufacturer a final opportunity to repair the car before you can take legal action.
Making Lemonade Out of Your Lemon
Some states require or give consumers the option to participate in a manufacturer- or state-sponsored arbitration hearing. Others allow consumers to sue the manufacturer in court. According to Sergei Lemberg, the managing partner of Lemberg Law, a Connecticut-based consumer law firm, it's difficult for people to navigate lemon law intricacies on their own. "Car manufacturers bank on the fact that most consumers are unable to meet stringent requirements and provide the appropriate documentation," he said. "They even have a saying - 'no lawyer, no money.''
That maxim refers to the liability that automakers face when presented with a lemon. Most state laws require the manufacturer to offer the consumer a replacement vehicle or a refund. Yet, according to Lemberg, "Many consumers get lost in the arbitration wilderness, unaware that lemon law mandates that the carmaker also pay the lemon owner's legal fees." These fee-shifting provisions are designed to level the playing field by incentivizing attorneys to represent consumers in what otherwise would be considered small-dollar cases.
If you believe you have a lemon on your hands, Lemberg says that the clock is ticking. "While it's tempting to procrastinate, you have to make your lemon law claim within the time frame dictated by the law," he said. "It's worth your while to be proactive and hold the auto manufacture accountable."
SOURCE: Lemberg Law