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  • Lemon Law in South Dakota

    What's a "Lemon"?

    Under South Dakota law, a "lemon" vehicle is one that has a single problem (or a series of problems) that "significantly impairs the use, value, or safety of the vehicle."

    The problems must arise from routine use, not through acts of abuse or neglect. Also, the problems cannot be the result of an accident, or an alteration of the vehicle that is not authorized by the manufacturer.

    What Type of Vehicles are Covered?

    Any type of vehicle made for use on public highways is covered by the Lemon Law, except for motor homes and vehicles weighing 10,000 lbs. or more.

    The law applies to both new and used vehicles, but the vehicle must have under 24,000 miles on it, and must be within 2 years of its original delivery date.

    Unfortunately, leased vehicles of any kind do not qualify for protection.

    Just because your vehicle doesn't qualify for protection under the state's Lemon Law doesn't necessarily mean that you're out of luck. Your vehicle may be covered under the Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, or perhaps the Uniform Commercial Code.

    Attempting to Repair the Problem

    To qualify as a lemon, your vehicle must have defects that, after a "reasonable" number of repair attempts within its warranty period, still cannot be fixed.

    The dealer is allowed 4 attempts to fix a single problem, or a total of 30 days in the shop to fix multiple problems, whichever happens first.

    However, the time period for this to happen is 2 years from the delivery date, or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.

    After that, the clock runs out on your protection, regardless if the problem(s) still exists. So, if your vehicle is misbehaving, it's a good idea to take it to the dealer at the first sign of trouble.

    You must be diligent in your record keeping. Hang on to all repair orders and invoices. Make sure that all orders have the following information: date and time in, date and time out, and odometer readings, plus a detailed listing of all the work done on your vehicle. Do this even if you weren't charged for the work.

    Make sure to describe the problem in the same way every time you take it to the dealer, so that it can be documented that you were having repeated trouble with the same problem.

    And, remember to continue to follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule, in spite of your trouble. If you don't, the manufacturer may later attempt to show that you were negligent in taking care of your vehicle.

    By the way, if you've had to rent a vehicle because of the repair work, keep those receipts, too. They could come into play later on in the process.

    One Last Try

    So, you've done all of the above. Can you get your money back or even get a replacement new car?

    Well, not yet.

    You still need to give the manufacturer 1 final attempt to fix your vehicle.
    We know― it may seem like you've done enough already. But, these are the rules.

    To do this, you'll need to send a certified letter to the manufacturer indicating that you intend to seek resolution under the South Dakota Lemon Law if the vehicle isn't fixed.

    You'll need to be specific in your letter, mentioning the following:

    • Description of the vehicle
    • The problems you've had
    • Repair attempts you've made (including name of repair shops and dates)

    The manufacturer has 7 days after receiving your letter to respond to your complaint, and to tell you where to take your vehicle to have it fixed one last time.

    Once you've taken the vehicle to the designated repair shop, they have 14 days to attempt to solve the problem.

    In some cases, the manufacturer may decide to skip this last attempt, and just give you a new car or your money back.

    Still Not Working?

    If your vehicle still isn't working properly after this final attempt, one of two things can happen next.

    If the manufacturer has an informal Lemon Law dispute board that complies with South Dakota regulations, you must try to resolve the issue with them before filing a civil case using the state's Lemon Law.

    Although this arbitration is quicker than going through the court process, you'll still, most likely, have to wait several weeks for your hearing to begin. You don't need to have an attorney for this process; however, it can be difficult for a consumer to win an arbitration that forces the manufacturer to refund the purchase price. Also, you should be aware that most arbitration systems are funded by the manufacturers.

    Most of the time the arbitration takes place via a telephone conference call among all of the parties involved.

    It's important to note that, if you don't agree with the verdict, you don't have to accept it. However, if you do, then your worries are over.

    Taking it to Court

    Now, if the manufacturer doesn't have an informal dispute system in place, or if you're dissatisfied with the results of the hearing, you can ―at last― seek relief by filing a civil case against the manufacturer using the Lemon Law.

    You'll have to do so within 3 years of the original delivery date, though. And, your claim will be strictly against the manufacturer, not the dealer or any repair shops.

    If you win the case, you can force the manufacturer to provide you with either a new car of comparable value, or to give you your money back.

    What's included if you request the cash?

    • Full purchase price of the vehicle (including dealer preparation, transportation charges, undercoating, non-refundable portions of extended warranties, and service contracts)
    • Collateral or extra charges (including excise tax, license or registration fees, other government charges)
    • All finance charges incurred after you first reported a problem to the dealer or manufacturer
    • Any other incidental damages stemming from the vehicle problems (including rental car costs)
    • Attorney fees

    However, the manufacturer is allowed to subtract a "reasonable allowance" (using a predetermined formula) for the mileage put on your vehicle before you first reported the problem.

    "Recycled" Lemons

    So, what happens to vehicles returned to the manufacturer? Do they go to "lemon heaven"?

    Well, some do.

    Others, though, get re-sold.

    If the manufacturer does re-sell the vehicle, it must disclose, in writing, to the next buyer that the vehicle was a Lemon Law loser, along with a description of what was wrong with the vehicle.

    Also, the manufacturer must obtain a new title that clearly states: "This motor vehicle was returned to the manufacturer because it did not conform to its warranty."

    Need Assistance?

    Yes, the Lemon Law can be a little tricky. Plus, you might already be exhausted from dealing with all your vehicle troubles.

    If you need some help, you might consider contacting the South Dakota Attorney General's office at:

    • Division of Consumer Protection
    • 1302 E. Highway 14, Suite 3
    • Pierre, SD 57501
    • Phone: (605) 773-4400
    • Help Line: (800) 300-1986

    Also, there are plenty of lawyers around who specialize in Lemon Law cases.

    You can go directly to the source, and read about the Lemon Law from the SD legislature.

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