What to Do if You Buy a Lemon From an Auto Dealer

By: Staff Writer August 6, 2012
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Outside of maybe seeing a student driver car practicing a parallel turn next to your new vehicle, nothing causes more fear in new car owners than inadvertently getting saddled with a lemon. Your new carefully planned investment has become a mechanical albatross, costing you time and money with every repair.

Fortunately, however, you are protected by state Lemon Laws provided you purchased from a car dealership.

Lemon Laws and Auto Dealers

Every state, including the District of Columbia, has a Lemon Law in place. Specifics vary by state, of course, but in general apply to new cars sold by a dealership car salesperson. Some states are beginning to modify the law so as to also cover a used car purchase, but only if the vehicle is still under warranty.

Your vehicle is covered if you meet your state's Lemon Law criteria. In general, this may include:

  • Your vehicle has been to a shop a certain number of times for the same repair but without any success. Most states require a minimum of three visits. Be sure to maintain strict records of each visit.
  • The car has been in a repair shop for a specified number of days. Most states require at least 30 days.
  • You've reported the problem at least once within a specified time period or before reaching a certain number of miles. Indiana, for instance, requires notification within 18 months or before 18,000 miles. Notification in Pennsylvania, however, must be prior to 12,000 miles.
  • The problem is not the result of abuse, neglect, accident, or alteration caused by you or another driver.

Your Vehicle's a Lemon: Now What?

If your vehicle fits the definition of a lemon, you have a legal case. This means you may be afforded some or all of the following rights as specified by your state:

  • The right to have the auto industry (the vehicle's manufacturer) replace your vehicle with a similar new vehicle.
  • The right to force the car dealership or manufacturer to repurchase the vehicle at the original car for sale price. This should include finance charges, car registration fees and taxes.

If the manufacturer and or dealership refuses to replace or refund the vehicle in question, you can, under the terms of your state's Lemon Law, take them to court. Most dealers will try to avoid this.

Regardless, if filing suit is your last option, hiring legal counsel is strongly recommended. There are many law firms that specialize in Lemon Law cases.

Have you had experience with a lemon? Have you had to take the dealership or manufacturer to court? Please share your experiences with our online community by leaving a comment below.

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