An automobile is one of the most important purchases a consumer makes. Regardless if one buys a new or used car, it is possible the new purchase is a lemon from day one.
A vehicle’s engineering could be flawed, causing thousands of cars or trucks to be defective and unfix-able. An individual could also be unlucky and be stuck with a car that has continued issues.
There are many reasons that a manufacturer is unable to fix a lemon. These include pure incompetence, greed, or through no fault of their own.
On this page we will discuss how one can determine their automobile is a failure, protections in place for consumers of defective vehicles, and how to build your lemon law case.
Determining if you have a Lemon
Just because a car, truck, or SUV requires service after purchase does not mean it is a failure. In fact, it is common for a new vehicle to have a minor issue after purchase. More often than not, a single trip to the dealership will rectify any problems.
A vehicle can only be considered a lemon if it has the same or similar issues on numerous occasions. An auto is not considered a lemon if there are multiple problems not similar in nature. For example, having an issue with the transmission that is resolved would be separate from a faulty brake line.
In order for a car to be defective under the lemon law, a vehicle would have to be in service on multiple occasions for the same thing and that issue would still not be resolved.
An example of a person qualifying for protection under the lemon law would be continued transmission issues. For instance, for the automobile to be considered defective, it would have to be in service for the transmission problem a certain number of times over a given period of time. The number of times in service and timeline vary from state to state. Each state has their own rules for determining if lemon laws apply.
Consumer protections under the State Lemon Laws
Each state has their own qualifications and protections under their respective lemon laws. State laws usually dictate mileage to qualify, how many times the vehicle has gone into service, and a period of years after the vehicle has been purchased.
The state usually regulates how many miles a vehicle has on it under the statute. For example, the New Jersey Lemon Law requires that claims under the statute include a vehicle with less than 24,000 miles. On the other hand, the California Lemon Law dictates that autos only qualify under their provisions if issues start before the vehicle has 20,000 miles.
To make a claim under the proper statute, a consumer needs to prove that the vehicle is indeed defective. This means an automobile needs to be in service a certain number of times for the same problem. For instance, New Jersey requires that a customer have the vehicle repaired at least twice, and the issue still not being resolved. The State of NJ also has a provision for a consumer to qualify for a vehicle refund if the car has been out of service for 20 cumulative days.
Most state lemon laws allow a consumer to receive a full refund of the purchase price of the vehicle if it qualifies. Some state laws also allow a customer to recoup all finance charges and attorneys fees for enforcing the statute.
The fatal drawback of state consumer protection statutes is that the court system needs to be involved. This allows the manufacturer to drag the process out. In most cases, one can only receive compensation for a defective car or truck if they keep possession of the automobile. This causes more headaches as often a consumer just wishes to dispose of their defective vehicle and get a new one. If you are the victim of a defective vehicle, it is in your best interest to let the process play out and receive full compensation at the end of the trial.
How to Build a Lemon Law Case
Before even hiring an attorney, there are things one can do to make their case for compensation stronger. We have compiled a list of things you should do if you believe your auto is a failure:
- Bring your vehicle to service whenever your car or truck has an issue
- Keep all service documentation from your visits to the dealership
- Insist the manufacturer and dealership continue attempts to fix your vehicle, even when attempts seem fruitless
- Keep documentation of all correspondence with the manufacturer
- Bring your vehicle to a third party mechanic. Most states void consumer protections if work has been performed by a non authorized mechanic.
- Give up. Dealerships will get sick of dealing with the problem. In order to qualify, you need to show failed attempts of the vehicle being repaired.
- Lose possession of the vehicle. If you trade in the car, or it gets repossessed you will lose protections under state statutes.