- Location: Maine
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When you buy a new car or truck, a big reason you're making the investment is for the satisfaction of driving a car where everything works smoothly and is expected to stay that way for a while. But what if things don't work smoothly? What if things are so bad with your new car that you need a replacement?
This is where Maine's Lemon Law comes in. The Lemon Law protects consumers by offering binding arbitration on consumer disputes with car dealers.
The Maine Lemon Law protects consumers who have serious defects in their new car. If your car has persistent problems that the dealer cannot fix, you can apply for a free State Lemon Law Arbitration Hearing and receive a decision within 45 days of the acceptance of your application.
If a State Lemon Law Arbitration Hearing is held and the arbitrator finds in your favor, you may receive a replacement vehicle or a refund.
The Lemon Law can apply to new motor vehicles, used motor vehicles, motorcycles, and motor homes. However, you may apply for Lemon Law arbitration only before either of the following limits have been reached:
- Three years from the date you originally bought the vehicle, or the end of the manufacturer's express warranty term.
- The 18,000-mile mark on the odometer.
Besides the timing and mileage requirements, you must have made a certain number of unsuccessful repair attempts, or the vehicle must have been out of commission for a certain number of days. You may invoke the Lemon Law if:
- Your vehicle has been repaired three times for the same serious problem and is not fixed.
- Your vehicle has been repaired once for a serious braking or steering problem (a safety issue) that wasn't fixed.
- Your vehicle has been out of service for 15 business days for repairs of one or more problems, and the problem is still not resolved. The 15 days do not need to be consecutive.
Maine's Lemon Law does not cover the following:
- Defects that don't "substantially impair" the vehicle's use, value, or safety.
- Defects caused by the owner's negligence.
- Defects resulting from an accident or from vandalism.
- Defects resulting from unauthorized repair or alteration by someone other than the manufacturer, its agents, or its authorized dealers.
If your vehicle meets the above qualifications, the process goes like this:
- You should obtain repair records from the dealer for each repair.
- Contact the State Lemon Law Arbitration Program for a Lemon Law Application and Final Opportunity to Repair notice. To do so, write or call the following:
- Office of the Attorney General
- Consumer Protection Division
- Lemon Law Arbitration Program
- 6 State House Station
- Augusta, ME 04333-0006
- (207) 626-8848 or (800) 436-2131 (toll-free in Maine only)
- Fax: (207) 626-8812
- Send written notice (Final Repair Notice) to the manufacturer by certified mail with a return receipt. This notifies the manufacturer that you're applying for Lemon Law arbitration and that you are giving them a final opportunity to repair the problems. A form letter for this purpose will be sent to you with the application.
- Allow the manufacturer at least seven business days after receipt of your Final Opportunity to Repair letter to make the necessary repair. (You may withdraw your vehicle after this seven-day day period has ended.)
- If the defect(s) were not corrected by the final repair attempt, or if the defect recurs and you want an arbitration hearing, do not repair the vehicle―it's your evidence. File your Lemon Law application before the vehicle is three years old and before the manufacturer's warranty expires.
- You must prove to an arbitrator that:
- You have attempted to repair the defect at least once before 18,000 miles.
- The defect is substantial and impairs the vehicle's use, safety, or value.
- The defect still exists and has not been corrected.
- The manufacturer has been given adequate opportunity to repair the vehicle.
- The manufacturer has been given a Final Opportunity to Repair notice.
- If your first repair attempt on the defect occurred before 18,000 miles but the other repair attempts occurred after 18,000 miles, you may still be eligible.
If You Win Arbitration
If the arbirator determines that your vehicle is a lemon, the manufacturer must offer you a refund or a replacement vehicle. If the replacement vehicle isn't acceptable to you, you may reject it and ask for a refund instead. However, if the manufacturer offers you a refund, you can't reject it in favor of a replacement.
If you opt for a refund, you'll get back the full price―minus a "reasonable allowance" for the miles you did get out of the car. If the car is a lease, you'll get a refund of your down payment, any trade-in allowance, and the total of lease payments you've made so far.
If the manufacturer issues a refund, you will be reimbursed for the following costs:
- The total purchase price before you subtracted any rebates or deposits or your trade-in allowance. If you leased the vehicle, you'll get back the lease payments made to date. Included in the full purchase price are the costs of all dealer-added options or services (radio, air conditioning, and so forth).
- Sales tax, document fees, title and arbitration fees, and registration fees.
- Interest paid on vehicle financing.
- The costs you incurred for towing the vehicle, storing it, or arranging for alternative transport while your wheels were out of service or in for repairs.
- Expert witness fees.
The following are not reimbursable if you win your claim: attorney's fees, time off work, other consequential damages, excise taxes, extended warranties, or rebates.
If You Lose Arbitration
If you lose your Lemon Law arbitration claim, you can appeal to the superior court within 21 days of the decision. You can also invoke the vehicle manufacturer's informal dispute settlement procedure.
Consumer laws can be long and complicated. The attorney general's online Consumer Law Guide contains an entire chapter about Maine's Lemon Law that covers all the ins and outs in great detail.