Lemon Law

Think you don't have to learn about your states lemon law? Think again! In today's society, a car is the most popular form of transportation and in some areas it is an absolute necessity. With millions of cars on the road today, its no wonder most Americans have had the unfortunate experience of being behind the wheel of a car that won't start or a car that stopped unexpectedly.

What is a Lemon?

Minor car trouble is a normal part of owning a vehicle, especially if the owner tends to neglect regular check-ups such as oil-changes and tune-ups. While minor car trouble such as a flat tire or over-heating may be considered a normal part of owning a vehicle, excessive car trouble is altogether different.

In general, if a car has a defect that impairs the safety of the vehicle as well as the value and use of the vehicle and that same defect has been repaired, say 3-4 times or more within the warranty period, the car may be considered a lemon. Fortunately, each state has a lemon law in place to help protect consumers against predatory dealerships or irresponsible manufacturers.

What are Lemon Laws?

Much like the definition of a lemon, lemon laws may vary slightly from state to state. In most states, however, Lemon Law Statutes are based on the Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. The Federal Magnuson-Moss Act is a federal law, passed by Congress in 1975, which governs consumer product warranties. The Act requires sellers and manufacturers to provide consumers with detailed, written information about warranty coverage and the Act helps to enforce those obligations outlined in the warranty.

State-to-state lemon laws typically address the type of vehicle, the length of warranty and number of repair attempts. For example, in the State of Virginia, the vehicle in question is any vehicle that is used for personal, family or household purposes that had 3 repair attempts or was out of service for 30 calendar days with a warranty period of 18 months. In Idaho the vehicle in question has to be a new vehicle that is used for business or personal purposes. The warranty period is 2 years or 24,000 miles, with 4 repair attempts or 30 days out of service.

I have a lemon law dispute, now what?

Once you have determined that you do in fact own a lemon and you have all of your supporting documentation and records in order, unfortunately, in many states you will have to hire a lawyer to take the manufacturer to court to recover damages. In some states, you cannot take the dealer to court.

There are several states that may use an Arbitration Board to help consumers and manufacturers resolve Lemon Law disputes. In these cases, there is no need to hire an attorney. To find out more about your state lemon law or to find out if your state has an Arbitration Board, contact your local Department of Consumer Affairs.

By Michelle Burton           

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