Lemon Law in Virginia
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Motor vehicles are big purchases for most people. So you want to know that if you buy a lemon, you have some recourse. Fortunately, you do.
Virginia's lemon law is called the Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act. It protects consumers from unfair vehicle warranties and holds manufacturers accountable for their products. The act even covers leased vehicles and reasonable attorney's fees, making it one of the strongest lemon laws in the country.
New motor vehicles generally qualify if they are less than four years old and have documented problems during the first 18 months after delivery to the first owner or lessee. For used vehicles that are sold "as is" but without the mandatory Buyers Guide window sticker, buyers have the right to cancel the sale within 30 days.
Manufacturers must make their vehicles conform to the warranties in place. If a lemon cannot be fixed in a reasonable amount of time, you are entitled to receive a replacement vehicle and to drive your lemon until you receive the replacement.
You may choose instead to get a refund of the purchase price, less a reasonable amount for your use of the vehicle. If the manufacturer does not make the vehicle conform to the warranty, you might also be entitled to collect damages.
Dealers who can't get a title for a vehicle within 30 days must take the vehicle back and provide a refund, if the temporary license plates lapse without renewal. When dealer financing does not come through, you have the right to return the vehicle within 24 hours for a full refund.
What Makes It a Lemon?
Three unsuccessful repairs, one repair attempt of a serious safety defect, or the vehicle being out of service for at least 30 days qualify a vehicle as a lemon if any of these these happened within the first 18 months of ownership by the first owner or lessee.
To attempt resolution, you must provide written notice to the manufacturer. If the three unsuccessful repairs or 30 days have already passed before you give notice, the manufacturer gets one more chance to fix it within 15 days.
Using the Lemon Law to your advantage depends on a few things. To prove your case, first you must keep excellent records of both the problem and the repair attempts, not to mention any communications with the dealer or manufacturer.
If the manufacturere is not forthcoming with a refund or replacement, you will also have to file a lawsuit within the first 18 months, or contact the manufacturer and use their arbitration program. Some car manufacturers have their own programs, while others use third-party programs like that of the Better Business Bureau. You might wish to retain an attorney to represent you in court, or even to help you avoid court by persuading the manufacturer to cooperate.
Before you file a claim, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs, which protects consumers from fraudulent, illegal, or deceptive practices in the marketplace:
- Office of Consumer Affairs
- Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- 1100 Bank St.
- Washington Building, Room 100
- Richmond, VA 23219
- (804) 786-2042
- (800) 552-9963
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