Imagine you’ve finally found the car of your dreams. You paid for it cash, checked out several car insurance quotes and checked the car’s history for damage. All these smart car-buying moves can backfire if your car turns out to be a lemon.
Lemon law protection for used car purchases varies from state to state. The lemon law typically pertains to new vehicles that are still under warranty and have had substantial continuing repair problems. Individual states will provide a remedy for cars that do not meet standards of performance and quality. Vehicles with one or more significant defects that substantially impair their safety, use, and value, may fall under lemon laws.
Federal Lemon Law
Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is the federal lemon law and protects citizens of all states. Individual states have their own lemon laws that may or may not cover used vehicles. Sometimes vehicles that are not under warranty may still be covered. This would happen if the seller failed to disclose critical information to the buyer.
If after a reasonable number of attempts to diagnose and repair the problem while under warranty, the manufacturer might be required to repurchase or replace the vehicle. To file a claim under the lemon law, the car buyer would need to request an arbitration hearing through the Attorney General’s Office. An arbitrator would hear the case and decide if the claim met the requirements under law.
State Lemon Laws
Although lemon laws were enacted to protect buyers of new cars, six states have taken the idea a step further, placing used car purchases under the lemon law as well. The following states mandate a statutory warranty period on all car purchases both public and private:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
Another seven states have similar laws, but they do not offer the provision that would force the seller to give a refund or by back the car. These include:
- New Mexico
North Carolina allows consumers to invoke the Unfair and Deceptive Practices statute if they are tricked into buying a lemon. Various other states have some limited regulations for used car buyers. Check with your state’s Attorney General before buying a car, so you know what legal protections you may have.
What to Do
If you suspect a lemon, keep a record of every repair visit. Document everything including notes about who you talked to, dates, and times. Put complaints in writing and be sure to keep a copy for yourself. Get a copy of any Warranty Repair Orders. Make sure you secure an invoice each time you pick up the vehicle, even if there were no charges. Make sure the complaint on the Repair Order is worded correctly to prove repeated attempts at repairing the same defect.
No one wants a lemon, but taking the proper steps will protect your rights. Your documentation will make or break any claim you might need to file.