I bought a Lemon Automobile: What’s now?
It happens every now and then in the life of a shopper -you’ve bought a product that doesn’t work right even though it’s fresh out of the packaging. This can be something as little as an appliance like a blender or something much bigger such as a car or other kind of motor vehicles, such as a truck.
It isn’t unheard of for someone to drive their new car or SUV off the lot, only for the automobile to have a mechanical issue five minutes later. It’s not the vehicle driver’s fault; they were just sold a car that doesn’t work or has an underlying issue that severely impacts the car performance and safety.
A lemon vehicle doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. In fact, there are several lemon laws and practices created to remedy the issue of a lemon vehicle.
The post serves as a guide to the laws behind a lemon car, what to do when your car is discovered to be a lemon, and how to avoid or look out for lemon cars.
What is a Lemon Car?
What is a lemon? As the name implies, it’s a product that has gone sour. Mass production isn’t perfect and can produce some errors every once in a while. Cars are complex machines with all their engine and electrical parts, so there’s always a possibility that one of those moving parts doesn’t function right.
A car would officially be deemed a lemon if the automaker it was purchased from can’t fix the problem with the automobile within a certain amount of time. If this happens, lemon laws compel them to provide a refund or vehicle replacement. This amount of time is usually determined by the state’s lemon laws.
We’ll get into what specific problems a car may have that qualify it as defective or a lemon automobile in a later section.
What Are The Different Types of Lemon Laws?
Let’s look at buying a defective vehicle, or a lemon, and what laws come into effect. There are both federal and state government laws regarding lemons.
The two types of lemon legislation are:
- Federal Lemon Laws - Also known as the Magnuson Moss Warranty Federal Trade Commissions Improvement Act found in Title 15 Chapter 50 of the U.S. Code, in Section 2301-2312. But that’s just its address; let’s talk about this lemon law job. The federal lemon laws make the warranty of an item or car legally binding. This lemon law states that the buyer of the defective product is to be issued a refund or replacement if the issue goes unresolved after a reasonable number of attempts, rather than time. This is written in fine print as Section 2304 of the federal act and is effective across all 50 states.
- State Lemon Laws- While every state follows the federal lemon law mandate, they do have their own lemon laws to comply with it. The state lemon laws work pretty much the same as the federal lemon law, wherein the automakers must provide a full refund or replacement if service and repair needs are not met. Some states gauge it after a certain number of car repair attempts, while others base it off a certain amount of time -it really all depends on what state you are in. It is usually after four attempts and 30 days of no auto shop intervention. Some states like Michigan even allow for lawsuits against the automaker if needs haven’t been met.
What Are Other Legalities of Lemon Cars?
After reading the previous section, you may have some questions about the legal terminology or how defective cars are classified.
Two significant terms to know when it comes to Lemon Cars Laws are:
- Substantive automobile defect - Substantive automobile defect refers to what causes the car to be labeled as defective in the first place. A vehicle defect is substantive when it occurs within the warranty period of the car. This is usually when a car is brand new. Something as major as the automobile airbag safety feature malfunctioning to something as minor as a botched paint job all qualify. These issues can’t originate from wear and tear or collision trauma -they will appear to be naturally occurring.
- Reasonable number of car fix attempts or time - A requirement of all lemon laws is to allow for the automakers to fix the issue on the vehicle within a certain amount of time, usually 30 days or at least four attempts. If a car doesn’t receive service at all for a certain amount of time, that is grounds for a vehicle replacement and refund.
What if The Lemon Car is Used?
Lemon laws usually apply to new cars from the factory within the first couple of years. However, there are a couple of states like New York and Massachusetts that have lemon laws that apply to used cars under a certain mileage, like 18,000 or 125,000. At the same time, states also have lemon laws regarding defective, used cars. Used car dealers are often required to provide warranties for the vehicles they sell.
The main difference between a new car and used car lemon claims is that you appeal it to the automobile dealership as opposed to the auto manufacturer.
Vehicle dealerships are the best way to get a deal on used cars because used cars from a private seller aren’t totally protected by lemon laws. At that point, a lawyer would have to be consulted for the best way to remedy lemon cars.
Again, used lemon cars must be serviced within a reasonable amount of time or have had automobile repairs attempted on it a sufficient amount. Used cars are held to the same lemon standard as new cars; the only difference is the procedure.
Do Lemon Laws Apply To Both Major And Minor Defects?
Yes, as previously mentioned, something as minor as a vehicle paint job defection can qualify the car as a lemon. However, it becomes more severe when a car safety feature like the automobile brake system or airbags doesn’t work properly.
A car can qualify as an automobile lemon and be resolved based on these types of vehicle damages:
- Vehicle major safety defect - The automobile steering, brake, and airbag systems are a couple of essential vehicle safety features. If defective, they must only fail one auto repair attempt to be deemed a necessity for a refund and vehicle replacement. The time frame to have one of these vehicle major safety defects resolved is 30 days within a year.
- Vehicle minor safety defect - The car’s door locking mechanism acting up is an example of an automobile issue that must be resolved after three to four attempts of car repair as opposed to just one. Whether three or four attempts are required depends on the state’s lemon laws.
How is a Lemon Vehicle Fixed or Resolved?
Now, let’s move on to the actual process of resolving a lemon car so that it’s out of your hair.
The main drawback is that the process of fixing or resolving lemons can take time to complete. It’s not a matter of automobile expertise; it’s a matter of knowing what to do if you have been served with a lemon vehicle and being patient with the results.
Here’s how to resolve a lemon car:
- Gather automobile paperwork - The vehicle paperwork, especially that of a lemon, should always be kept track of. This includes everything that proves the car is defective, like maintenance receipts to provide a tangential timeline of how often the car was serviced, or the vehicle history report. If there was an email correspondence with the automaker or used vehicle dealership, that should be printed out and kept with the automobile records.
- Hire a lawyer - Not just any legal representative, but a consumer attorney who regularly deals with product recalls and warranty arbitrations. Note that you will have to pay their legal fees if the lemon vehicle claim is taken to court. The National Association of Consumer Advocates has a list of lawyers who specialize in lemons legal work.
- File lemon car claim with automaker or automobile dealer - A formal letter should also be included with the lemon claim. Templates of such letters are available online if you aren’t entirely sure what to write on your lemon car claim.
- Arbitration - Automakers are encouraged to go into arbitration or an informal meeting program where the car issue can be settled upon before going to court. If an automaker rejects a lemon vehicle claim, then you can take them straight to court without arbitration.
- Pursue lemon vehicle claim in court if necessary - With the help of your consumer lawyer, take the case of your lemon car to court. Taking the case of your lemon car to court can be the most lengthy part. There was an instance where a woman in Milwaukee was in court for four years against Mercedes-Benz. But this is not the average for cases of lemon cars. Pursuing a lemon car claim in court is only a last resort, as arbitration usually resolves the lemon issue.
- Receive refund or auto replacement as the resolution for your lemon- At this point, the automaker has agreed to provide a full refund or replacement of the car. You’ve paid your legal fees and are set to go with your new car.
How Can I Avoid Buying a Lemon Car? Tips To Avoid Buying a Lemon
While you can’t help the quality control of an automaker, there are ways to be vigilant when car shopping and you come across a lemon car. These precautions are especially to be taken when shopping for used cars.
Here are ways to be on the lookout for lemons when car shopping:
- Look at the reliability record of a vehicle - Every car model and make has a reliability record and rating. Lemons may be a recurring problem in other cars of the same make as yours. That can be a pattern. So when shopping for a car, try to steer in the direction of reliable automakers like Kia and Toyota.
- Always consult the window sticker - Car dealers place handy buyer’s guides on the windows of their vehicles. This is a practice required by the Federal Trade Commission. The information it contains includes whether or not the car is being sold “as is” or with a warranty. It also includes the number of repair costs the vehicle dealer will cover.
- Look over the car’s exterior - The exterior of a car can reveal telltale signs of lasting damage or vehicle issues. An example would be if the automobile doors or vehicle trunk don’t close properly -this indicates there was previous auto repair work. A sign of paint filler would be the lack of magnetism of the automobile panels. What’s more, a sticker from the Certified Automotive Parts Association means that the auto panel has been replaced entirely. The vehicle marks and exterior tell their own story about an automobile, so it’s best to pay attention.
- Inspect the car’s interior - Look around the inside of the car for cracks in the automobile dashboard, missing buttons or knobs, or any issues with the vehicle headlights. Your automobile driving setup should be absolutely perfect. Check the vehicles seat belts for frays as they can be evidence of a vehicle collision when the vehicle was going over 15 mph. Issues with the auto airbag can be revealed if the light on the vehicle dashboard is on.
- See what’s under the automobile hood - You don’t have to be a mechanic to tell a greasy or corroded vehicle engine from a clean one. Vehicle wires and automobile tubes should also be checked for burns or extreme wear. Vehicles engine oil should normally look brown or black. It can be gelatinous and thick, but when it’s thin, frothy, and light brown -that can indicate a blown vehicle gasket or damaged automobile cylinder. Vehicle transmission fluid should also be bright or dark red. Brown and darker automobile fluid would have to be changed. We don’t need to stress how dire a problem beneath the vehicle hood can be for a car. It may one day just turn into a functionless brick.
- Check the vehicle steering system - The vehicle telltale sign that something is wrong with a vehicle’s steering system is hearing a clunking sound when turning the vehicle wheel. Be sure that it doesn’t slack either. When the car is in motion, take note of how much you need to correct the vehicle steering.
- Check the vehicle suspension system - There is a simple way to check your vehicle’s suspension. Push down on each vehicle fender, then release; if the car rebounds more than two times, then there may be an issue with the vehicle suspension system. This can also be tested by driving the vehicle over a bumpy road.
- Look at the cars tires - Vehicle tire wear should be even on all sides of the vehicle wheel. If wear is in the middle, then the vehicles tire is overinflated. Underinflated vehicle tires will have more wear on the sides.
- Check smoke from the vehicle tailpipe - The smoke color coming from the vehicle’s exhaust is a big indicator of auto health. White smoke is no cause for alarm, but when it becomes constant, that means there is water in the vehicles engine, and a gasket was blown. Black smoke means a dirty air filter and a broken vehicle air intake system. Dark blue smoke means oil is burning, which is an emergency.
- Startup the car and see how the vehicle reacts - The clutch of a vehicle can be judged based on how this vehicle starts up. If the vehicle revs often, then the automobile clutch may be worn out or misaligned. Sounds like a knock or a ping can indicate an overheating vehicle engine.
- Check for any automobile recalls or technical vehicle service bulletins (TSB) - Recall vehicle service can be a red flag for vehicles. The automobile seller should be able to provide any documentation on whether or not the vehicle was subject to recall vehicle service. A TSB is automobile report automakers send to vehicle dealers about common problems with their makes and models of vehicles on the market. These should be checked, especially when it comes to used cars.
- Look at the vehicle history report - Consult online resources like CarFace and Experian to look up if a certain vehicle has had a salvage or rebuilt title along with the exact vehicle odometer amount.
- Visit a professional mechanic - Having a vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic before buying it is a regular practice that costs around $120 for a basic vehicle diagnostic. It is called pre-purchase inspection. They look at and inspect all the parts of the cars we’ve just gone over.
What Does it Mean to Buy a Car “as is?”
An important note to make about buying a car is whether it is sold “as is.” A car sale that is labeled “as is” means that there is no warranty and doesn’t hold the vehicle to a standard.
Due to this, the seller won’t be on the line for any lasting issues the vehicle may have since you’ve agreed to buy the car as it is. It’s best to find a car that is covered by a warranty if you are worried about receiving a lemon. This information is located on the buyer’s guide sticker.
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