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What defines a vehicle as a “Lemon”?

The consumer’s definition of a “lemon” may be a vehicle that just spends too many days in the dealership’s shop, or the same problem happening over and over again, or just a lot of different problems, spoiling the “new car experience.” Under Lemon Laws, vehicles must meet specific criteria, which varies from each state. It’s typically triggered by a specific number of repair attempts, a specific number of days in the shop, a specific safety defect, or other requirements.


Automobile lemon law – Quick Reference Guide

State lemon laws offer protection for buyers of new cars, trucks, motorhomes, and motorcycles. State lemon laws provides different options to the consumer and manufacturer.

For cars and trucks that qualify under a states lemon law, the manufacturer must offer to replace or repurchase the offending “lemon” vehicle. The qualifications and restrictions regarding "replacement" vehicles will vary by state. 

Automobile manufacturers will print warranty books that contain “instructions” for consumers who think they may have a lemon vehicle that qualifies under their states lemon law. Consumers must remember that these lemon law “instructions” or “steps to follow” are what the automobile manufacturer wants you to do, and is NOT necessarily the required steps or procedures for utilizing the lemon law process. For example, many manufacturers warranty books will attempt to direct the consumer to attend an arbitration hearing to "resolve" their lemon law claim. Arbitration and your lemon law rights should be discussed with a lemon law attorney in your state before considering utilizing arbitration services, so you can have a balanced viewpoint. Arbitration is optional in some states. As an example, there is no requirement under the California lemon law to utilize voluntary arbitration.. The consumer in California can, as an example, go directly to a lemon law attorney for representation.

Automobile manufacturers' limited warranty coverage's in all states are the same, though certain states may have specific additional warranty rights afforded to the consumer.  Each state has different rules for when a lemon law claim can be filed. You should read the lemon law statute for your state from the links above. If the repeated problem continues to occur after the expiration of the new car warranty in certain states, you may still be entitled to protection under the lemon law. In some states the manufacturer’s “extra power-train warranty coverage” can be utilized as lemon law protection for consumers. These extended “power-train” warranties often provide for coverage as long as 100,000 miles.

Arbitration is a dispute resolution process. The arbitration hearings that the consumer attends are often nothing more than a way for automobile manufacturers to be given “another chance” at fixing the consumers vehicle. One of the potential decisions that can be handed down at, or as a result of an arbitration hearing is “the repair decision.” The automobile manufacturer’s representative argues to the arbitrator that the manufacturer should be "given an additional attempt to repair the vehicle", or argues that they (coincidentally) “now have a fix developed” for the consumer’s repeated defective condition. The consumer often goes into a arbitration hearing expecting a “win” or “lose” decision, but becomes stunned when finding out that the outcome of the arbitration for their lemon law claim is simply to return back to the dealer for another repair attempt! The arbitrators are not lawyers in most states. Participation in an arbitration is NOT required to pursue a legal claim  under the lemon law in some states. A consumer should consider getting legal advice from a lemon law attorney in their state before proceeding with the arbitration process.

“Customer Assistance Centers”. Consumers can call the manufacturer’s toll-free “assistance center” (this phone number is usually contained in the manufacture’s warranty booklet) and explain that they feel they have a vehicle that qualifies under their state's lemon law. The manufacturer’s representative will typically assign a “case number” to the consumer’s complaint. Often times the unknowing consumer thinks this “case number” means that something will be done, especially when followed by the potential language of “we are opening a case number for you.” Consumers can be mislead that this is the “opening” or “start” of a legal lemon law case. It is NOT. A “case number” is often nothing more than a reference number to the consumer that allows the automobile manufacturer to establish a numerical file on the consumer which can be used to index any future calls.

“The Dealer Trade Assist”. Consumers need to be VERY aware of this “trick of the automobile trade.” Consumers who have been having repeated problems with their vehicle will often seek lemon law relief by asking their car dealer to “buy back” or replace their vehicle. What the consumer does NOT know is that the dealer does not have the responsibility under state lemon laws to repurchase or replace the offending vehicle. This is where “opportunity knocks” for the car dealer in many instances. The car dealer “responds” to the consumer’s request by “offering” to resolve the consumer’s dreadful car problem by offering “to take them out of their car” or “get you out of this car and into a new one” or similar verbiage. This is NOT the lemon law. This is an example of an opportunistic dealer sales tactic of making the consumer believe that they are getting lemon law relief, but in reality the car dealer is taking the offending vehicle in trade, and simply selling the consumer another vehicle at a handsome profit to the dealer! The dealer often hears consumers say, “You have to get me out of this vehicle.” They are simply taking the customers grief and turning it into profit, while the consumer loses part of or all of their earned equity in their vehicle, often resulting in the loss of thousands of dollars. This “dealer trade assist” can often result in the dealer inflating the price of the “replacement” car and putting the consumer further into debt. Consumers should be very aware that the car dealership is in business to make a profit and to sell cars. The “dealer trade assist” is another example of how a consumer can unknowingly THINK they are getting relief from the  lemon law, but are simply being taken advantage of.

What is the consumer to do? Consumers can simplify the entire lemon law process by utilizing the services of a specialized lemon law attorney in their state.  A qualified lemon law attorney can offer a wealth of information and insight to the consumer. Many lemon law attorneys even offer a free "consultation" or "case review".

 


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