- Location: Washington DC
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You have recently purchased a car that is now, before that new-car smell has worn off, giving you nothing but trouble. It seems like every time you turn around, you're having to leave it with the mechanic for repairs. Have you just purchased a lemon?
Each state defines the criteria for what constitutes a "lemon." Generally, this is a new car purchased from a licensed dealer that has chronic mechanical problems and can't seem to be repaired despite numerous attempts, or one that has spent a specific number of days out of commission in the shop.
A consumer who purchases a car that turns out to be a lemon is entitled by law to either a similar replacement vehicle or a refund of the purchase price, minus a reasonable allowance for the miles the vehicle was actually driven.
In the District of Columbia, in order to be considered a lemon and therefore eligible for protections under the Lemon Law, you must have had four unsuccessful repairs or 30 calendar days out of service. Or the car must have had one unsuccessful repair of a safety-related defect within two years or 18,000 miles of its original purchase. You must have documentation that each defect was reported to the manufacturer or dealer.
If you think you might have a claim under the lemon law, it's important that you keep detailed, accurate records of all repairs, conversations with your mechanic, and the problem itself. Make sure that you also save your repair receipts so that you can document all of the work that you have paid for in an effort to cure your ailing auto.
It might take longer than you hoped to get this resolved. One way to expedite the process is to hire an attorney who specializes in lemon law cases. A lawyer with experience in this area will know how the manufacturers typically respond to lemon law claims and might be able to head off any stonewalling or other tactics designed to get you to give up.
Sometimes it's the manufacturer who finds the problem. In the case of a design flaw or a faulty part that affects a number of vehicles, you might get a letter from the maker recalling the vehicle. Should this happen, don't worry―when you take your car in for the required repair, the manufacturer will pay for it.
You can read all the legalese of DC's lemon law yourself. It's all there in the DC Code.