Bought a Lemon?

Bought a Lemon?

by LegalZoom Staff, December 2009

What happens if you buy a new car only to find out a month later that it's a lemon? Your brakes only work when they want, your engine is making sounds reminiscent of a Vegas slot machine, and your car is emitting heavy purple fumes, but your car dealer keeps reassuring you that your vehicle is in perfect condition and only needs minor touch ups.

Well, we at LegalZoom understand how hard you have worked to save up for that new car and feel your frustration if your new car turns out to be your worst nightmare. We hope that you will find the following information helpful.

In General

Almost every state has a new car lemon law. Depending in which state you live, lemon laws protect your new vehicle for a period of 12 to 24 months after you purchase it. Most lemon laws state that the owner is entitled to a refund or replacement when a new vehicle has a substantial problem that is not fixed within a reasonable number of attempts.

The number of attempts that is allowed usually depends on the type of problem. The more serious the problem, the less attempts at fixing it are given to the dealer:

  • If the defect is a serious safety defect involving faulty brakes or steering, the manufacturer is granted ONE attempt to repair.
  • If the defect is a safety defect not involving a serious safety defect, the manufacturer is granted TWO attempts to repair.
  • For any other defect, the manufacturers are usually granted up to FOUR chances to repair the same defect.
  • If your new car has been out of service for 30 days within the first 12 months or 12,000 miles, your car will usually be protected by your state lemon laws.

If any of the four situations apply to your new car, your car can usually be considered a lemon for purposes of the law. You should have the right to request a refund or replacement to your vehicle.

What can you do?

The first thing you should do is contact your state or local consumer protection office for information on the laws in your state and the steps you must take to resolve your situation.

Second, provide the dealer a list of problems every time you bring your vehicle in for repairs. Always make photocopies of your list for your records as these become invaluable if you are to request a refund or replacement.

Third, always get copies of the repair orders. Make certain that the reports show the problems, the repairs performed, and the dates that the car was in the repair shop.

Fourth, contact the manufacturer as well as the dealer to report the problem. Some state laws require that you do so to give the manufacturer a chance to fix the problem. Your owner's manual will usually list an address for the manufacturer.

Last, if your new car turns out to be a lemon, draft a letter to the dealer and manufacturer demanding that you receive a refund or replacement. Send a copy of this letter to your state or local consumer protection agency.

By following these five simple steps, you too can turn a lemon into lemonade!