Car Gone Sour – Now What?

While it is not uncommon to be unsatisfied with a car purchase, a small percentage of new cars have serious defects which originate in the manufacturing of the car. A serious defect is a problem which affects the functionality and/or safety of the car, such as repeated failure of the brakes, transmission, or steering.

If you notice your car is having repeated or serious problems, it may qualify as a lemon, and you may be entitled to a refund or replacement from the manufacturer. When you purchase any new car, it is important to keep full records to protect yourself in case you have purchased a lemon. In some states, the lemon law only applies to new cars during the warranty period. In other states, used cars are also included if they are under warranty and/or have not yet reached a certain mileage limit.

If Your New Car is in the Shop:

  • Tell the manufacturer about the problem in writing. They have the right to attempt to fix the problem in a reasonable period of time.
  • Keep records of all repairs, any costs you incur, and all correspondence with the manufacturer. Be sure to record dates, times, and who you talk to.
  • Find out about the law in your state – you don’t want to let the mileage to get too high before you report the problem.
  • Communicate with the manufacturer, and make sure that the problem is recorded by them exactly as you reported it.

A car can qualify as a lemon either based on number of times the problem has to be repaired, or the number of days it is out of service. The manufacturer is allowed to attempt to rectify the problem a reasonable amount of times, usually four times. Alternatively, if your car is in the shop for 20 days out of 12 months while it is under warranty, it probably qualifies as a lemon, and you are entitled to protection under law.

If Your Car is a Lemon:
If the manufacturer fails to fix your car, and it qualifies as a lemon under state law, they are required to either issue a refund (including damages and costs related to the vehicle), or replace your car with a vehicle of comparable value. Alternatively, some manufacturers offer remedies outside of the lemon law; your warranty will contain relevant information.

Because the law in some states is vague, and because manufacturers will sometimes attempt to avoid acknowledging that a car is a lemon, it is often helpful to retain a private attorney to help navigate the process. However, while an attorney can be a huge help, the law is firmly on the side of the consumer if a lemon has been purchased.

For more writing by Jillian Johnson follow her @MissWritey.

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