- Location: Alaska
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The term "lemon," when applied to motor vehicles rather than to citrus fruit, is loosely defined as a new motor vehicle that has a substantial mechanical problem that either has not been fixed or cannot be fixed within a reasonable number of attempts, or that has had a certain number of days out of service.
The first year that you own the vehicles are the most important in deciding whether or not it is a lemon. You are required to report all breakdowns, failures, and problems to both the dealership and the manufacturer, and you need to do it as son as possible. Many manufacturers have e-mail accounts set up to assist you, but you may need to engage the help of a local consumer assistance agency or lemon law legal specialist to find the right place/people to contact.
Don't wait to get your car back to the dealership if it begins to give you trouble. If your car is fine for the first year and then starts acting up after that, you will not be eligible to benefit from the lemon laws.
Keep a notebook and jot down everything that occurs and what is done to fix (or attempt to fix) the problem. The key, in many cases, to successfully use the state's lemon law depends on three major factors:
- Keeping excellent records
- Giving the dealership or other parties proper notice
- Using arbitration programs if they are required
If your new car starts showing signs of a defect or has broken down, call the dealership right away and either make an appointment to bring it in or have it towed for service.
Understand that you cannot declare right then that your car is a lemon; the dealership has a right to make a reasonable attempt to fix or remedy the problem. Don't drive a car that you feel may be dangerous, especially in severe weather. Ask the dealership for a loaner and above all, make a note of any refusals and you concerns in your record. You may also wish to contact an attorney specializing in lemon law if you feel like the dealership is not cooperating with you.
Your biggest responsibility it to see to it that your car gets into the dealership's repair department, and that you have accurate records of everything that has happened during the course of the breakdown. Make note of all phone calls, repair attempts, log the time that your car has been out of commission, whether it is at the shop or at your home. If it cannot be driven, that counts as down time. Keep your repair appointments and have routine maintenance done if it is required.
Don't make the mistake of refusing to pay your car payment while your car is being repaired or while you are waiting for a final decision regard the status of a refund or replacement. This can only make matters worse for you, because the lender has nothing to do with the lemon laws and is entitled to collect the payments on their loan, unless an insurance adjuster has declared the car a total loss and paid off on the claim.
Since there is no insurance claim involved in lemon law issues, this will not happen. Refusal to pay on a loan can harm your credit rating. Keep your loan payments up to date while the vehicle is being worked on. One the final determination of a lemon is reached, you will have the option of a refund or a replacement car.
If the same problem keeps occurring, the dealership has 3 attempts to get it right, after that, the car is officially a lemon. Or, if your car has been out of commission for a total of 30 days, it can be considered a lemon.
In the even of either of the above, then dealer then must do one of these things:
- Replace the vehicle
- Refund your money including all tax, registration, transfer fees, and other related expenses
Be aware that if you do accept the refund option, the manufactured is legally allowed to deduct for your use of the vehicle and for any depreciation if the vehicle has been subjected to abuse or neglect.
The lemon laws are not applicable if the defect is associated with any type of changes or alteration to the car. And, if the repairs are not made within the allotted time due to a labor strike or a natural disaster, the dealership is allowed to extend the time.
Also, the lemon laws only apply to the type of defect that substantially impacts the safe use of the vehicles. Small problems such as inside compartments not latching, a bad radio, a sticking passenger seat, or a broken cup holder do not fall under the lemon laws. However, some defects that might be seen as minor in other climates could be considered under the lemon law in a harsh area like Alaska. A broken heater, non-functioning wipers, defective defroster or other heating issues would be more important in Alaska than in, for instance, Arizona.
One more thing: Once the three tries have been made, it is your responsibility to notify the dealership in writing by certified mail. This is where you could greatly benefit from the advice of a good lawyer.
Three sets of laws apply to defective vehicles sold in the United States:
- Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act: This is the law that keeps car dealerships from writing unfair or unenforceable warranties on motor vehicles.
- Uniform Commercial Code: This is the section of public law that provides for the redress in cases of lemons, such as refund or car replacement
- State-Specific Lemon Laws: The laws are they apply in any specific state. More state=specific details can be found at the State of Alaska Department of Law, Consumer Protection Division, including detailed instructions for notification requirements, what type of notes to keep, who to call, where to write, who to notify and when.
Many consumers, when faced with a new car that won't run properly, and new loan to pay, no way to get to work and get around, are often inclined to either give up, stop making their payments, park the car at the dealership and walk away. The lemon laws were created to keep desperate acts like this from happening.
Of course, it is much easier said than done when you are in the above position, which is why it is strongly recommended that you check with a law firm specializing in automotive law. If you are being subjected to what you perceive as a run around from the dealership, an attorney can help set things right. You don't have to go through this alone!