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Buying any new product―and then finding that it doesn't work quite right―can be a frustrating experience. However, it's much worse when the product costs a lot of money, and you depend on it daily. Such as your car.
Indiana does have rules in place to help you with new car problems, though. It's referred to as the state's Lemon Law, or officially as the Motor Vehicle Protection Act.
If your car or light truck (bought or leased) fits all of the following requirements, you may qualify for protection:
- Received it within the past 18 months
- Purchased from an Indiana dealer
- Has fewer than 18,000 miles on it
- Did not obtain primarily to just re-sell or sublease it
Please note that motorcycles, motor homes, conversion vans, mopeds, snowmobiles, and off-road vehicles do not qualify for protection under this law.
If your vehicle does not fit these parameters, you may still have some protection, just not under Indiana's Lemon Law. If you received a warranty from the dealer when you bought it, you might have some coverage under the Federal Magnuson Moss Warranty Act.
If your vehicle fits the above criteria and you're having a problem with it, you will need to report the trouble to an authorized dealer, and take it in for repair. Make sure to do so within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles of purchase.
Next, be patient. As frustrating as it may be to have a car that's not working properly, the Lemon Law requires that you give the dealer at least 4 attempts to fix the problem. Or, you must give the dealer at least 30 business days to repair the problem.
Make sure that you receive a written copy of the repair order every time you take the car to the shop to be checked out or repaired. Also be sure that all examination or work is put in detail on the order.
If you've given the dealer the required time to fix the trouble, but your car still isn't running properly, you'll need to take a look at the owner's manual or warranty to determine what to do next.
If the manual or warranty states that written notice of car trouble is required to be given to the manufacturer before you may attempt to receive a refund or replacement, then you'll have to comply. Be sure to include copies of all the repair reports. Send everything to the manufacturer's address as listed in the manual.
If the manual or warranty states that the manufacturer already has some sort of informal dispute resolution in place that's been approved by the Indiana Attorney General, then you'll have to follow along with whatever those procedures might be. Afterwards, if you're not satisfied with the resolution, you may then file a lawsuit using the Lemon Law.
If you win the resolution, the manufacturer has 30 days to either replace your vehicle with one of comparable value, or refund your money. It will be your choice. If you choose to take the money, you will be given the purchase price (including any trade-in allowance or other credit) minus a reasonable allowance for use. Also, the manufacturer is liable for any costs associated with the car trouble, such as towing or rental car fees.
Now, if the warranty or manual doesn't mention anything about filing a written notice, and if the manufacturer doesn't have an informal dispute resolution in place, you may simply proceed with filing a lawsuit under the Lemon Law.
All lawsuits must be made within 2 years from the first time you reported the problem to the dealer. If you win the lawsuit, the manufacturer will have to pay for your legal costs.
After a manufacturer takes back a car, it has the right to repair it and send it back to a dealer, who may then re-sell it.
However, the manufacturer must obtain another title for the car. The title will have "Manufacturer Buyback Disclosure on File" on it, and this label will stay with the vehicle for as long as it's around.
Also, the first time that the dealer sells the vehicle, it must let the new buyer know, in writing, at the time of the sale, that the car had been returned to the manufacturer under the Lemon Law. The buyer will also receive a manufacturer's warranty of at least 12 months or 12,000 miles.
We've already mentioned the importance of keeping copies of all repair records, and making sure that the repair orders contain complete information. There are more ways for consumers to safeguard themselves.
- Make sure you keep an accurate record of each time you take your vehicle in for any repair, or just have routine maintenance done.
- Follow the manufacturer's maintenance requirements closely, as the manufacturer may later try to show that you haven't taken proper care of your vehicle.
- Keep a log of your vehicle's problems and defects. If you need to go back to have a problem fixed, make sure to describe it the same way when you go back.
If you need more information about the state's lemon law, contact the Indiana Attorney General at:
- Attorney General's Office
- Consumer Protection Division
- 302 W. Washington St., 5th Floor
- Indianapolis, IN 46204
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- Phone: (317) 232-6330