How to Know When a Car is a Lemon

No one wants to have to worry about purchasing a lemon when they go into a car dealership to purchase a new vehicle. Yet, some people discover that they did indeed purchase a lemon within a short period of time after buying their new vehicle. You shopped for the vehicle that fits your needs and your budget, only to discover that problems exist or develop shortly after buying the vehicle and now you wonder if your SUV, van, pickup truck or car is a lemon.

How do you know if the vehicle is a lemon? Does the vehicle qualify as a lemon under state or federal law, which may mean that you have legal recourse after you purchased the lemon car or other covered vehicle that qualifies as a lemon? What if you purchase a used vehicle and you have issues with the car? What laws cover lemons, and how do you go about making a claim under lemon laws? These are just some questions that consumers may ask when they consider buying a new car or other vehicle, or after making the purchase and they discover issues that may lead to the vehicle being determined to be a lemon.

It takes time to research all of the laws that cover lemons. The laws may seem confusing and complex to some consumers. One way to get answers to all of your questions and to know if your vehicle qualifies as a lemon under the law is to contact an experienced lemon law attorney that has expertise in lemon laws.

What are Lemon Laws?

A vehicle may be a lemon under the state and federal law if it meets the stringent qualifications. Every vehicle that has something wrong with it will not qualify as being a lemon. So, exactly what is a lemon? The term “lemon” was initially used to describe worthless or useless consumer products around the turn of the 20th century.

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (Section 102(c), 15 U.S.C. 2302(c)) prevents vehicle manufacturers from using warranty disclaimers in an unfair or misleading manner. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) explains that the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which Congress passed in 1975, requires the warrantors of consumer products to “provide consumers with detailed information about warranty coverage,” and that the act “affects both the rights of consumers and the obligations of warrantors under written warranties.”

It is important for consumers to know that this act only covers written warranties, and that it does not cover oral warranties. The act is very comprehensive. Many consumers likely want to turn to a lemon law attorney for a detailed explanation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and to learn how it may affect them in their attempt to file a claim because of their purchase of a car that is a lemon, or the purchase of another vehicle that is likely covered under this Congressional act.

Most consumers consider the state statutes that offer protections for consumers. The California Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act offers extensive protections for consumers, including those who purchase “lemons” in the state. The Act provides consumers with the opportunity to obtain the “benefit of an express warranty,” and specific implied warranties, and “strictly limits how those warranties may be disclaimed,” under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act.

The California lemon laws provide remedies for consumers who purchase lemon vehicles that are covered under the statutes. The law mostly applies to new cars, but the laws also protect consumers who purchase certain used cars. Your lemon law attorney has the knowledge and expertise to interpret these acts, and knows how to apply them to your specific claim for damages.

How Do I Know if a Car is a Lemon?

Learning that a car is a lemon does not always begin when you drive the car off the lot and park it in your driveway. There are ways that you can potentially discover if the car is a lemon before you make the purchase. CARFAX simplifies the description of a lemon by stating that a lemon vehicle has a substantial defect that the automaker cannot fix within a reasonable amount of time. The provider of vehicle history reports indicates that the terms “substantial defect” and what constitutes a “reasonable amount of time” may be determined on a case-by-case basis.

The Lemon Law Presumption, which likely applies to your case if you have made a reasonable number of attempts to have the car repaired, requires that the issues that you have with the vehicle first occurred within 18 months of delivery of the car or within the first 18,000 miles. It also requires that the issues with the car are covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. The issues must also reduce the value, safety or use of the car.

Some examples of problems that a person may have with their car that possibly affect safety include the fact that the vehicle has poor acceleration, steering issues, engine or electrical problems. Some other common defects include suspension issues, transmission problems and braking issues. Speak to an experienced lemon law attorney to learn if the issues with your car or other vehicle are covered by state and federal lemon laws.

Have you taken the vehicle to be repaired four or more times and it is still not properly repaired? Have you taken the car to be repaired two or more times for any issue that is severe enough to cause severe bodily injury or death and the car is still not repaired? Have you had the vehicle in the shop for repairs that are covered by the warranty for any 30-day period, although not necessarily 30 consecutive days? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, your car may be covered under the California Lemon Law. The federal and state laws require that a manufacturer must either replace the vehicle or reimburse the buyer in an amount that is equal to the purchase price that was paid by the buyer.

The best way to make sure that your rights are protected is to rely on the experience of a lemon law attorney that has a highly successful rate of representing clients in lemon law cases.

How Do I Avoid Buying a Vehicle that is a Lemon?

The State of California Office of the Attorney General suggests that consumers not give in to pressure to purchase, that they ask questions and to be prepared to walk away if they feel that their questions were not answered to their satisfaction. They also suggest that consumers know the value of the vehicle before making a purchase. You can learn this information by checking vehicle pricing guides, researching the value at reputable sites, and doing some comparison shopping.

Make sure that you comply with other suggestions from the Office of the Attorney General, which include:

  • Make sure that you read and understand your purchase contract
  • Do not sign any contract or other document that you do not understand
  • Make sure that you understand the manufacturer’s warranty and exactly what it covers
  • Learn whether a car has a safety recall notice and whether there have been repairs made to the car or other vehicle that is covered by lemon laws

It is important to follow these guidelines, and other provisions in the state and federal lemon law, because you cannot always determine if a car is a lemon simply by taking it for a test drive.

Lemon laws apply to some used vehicles, so make sure that you know if lemon laws apply to your used car purchase. There are certain requirements for any car that is listed as a “certified” used car. Check with the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System and get a CARFAX report before making a purchase of any used car.

The Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights also provides certain protections for individuals who purchase a new or a used car from a licensed dealer in California. Dealers cannot add charges to your contract without your consent and without full disclosure. Covered items include optional add-on service contracts, optional anti-theft devices or other optional products or services.

Dealers that claim to sell “certified” used cars are required to perform a complete inspection of the vehicle. They are also required to provide you with a complete copy of the inspection report.

Some people may wonder whether they should consider purchasing a manufacturer’s buyback. There is some reason for concern in certain cases. Consider that the California Department of Motor Vehicles provides information and guidance related to purchasing a vehicle that is a manufacturer’s lemon buyback. The manufacturer is required to request that the Certificate of Title and the registration certificate is marked as a “Lemon Law Buyback.” The vehicle must be titled in the manufacturer’s name and must attach a decal to the vehicle that indicates that it is a “Lemon Law Buyback.”

The law requires that a manufacturer disclose if a vehicle is a Lemon Law Buyback. Feel free to ask, even if you do not see the required decal affixed to the vehicle. Consider whether you want to purchase a Lemon Law Buyback before buying any vehicle. Speak to a lemon law attorney to receive guidance and to discuss the best path forward, whether you consider purchasing a Lemon Law Buyback, or whether you discover that your car is a lemon that is covered under the state and federal lemon laws.

Lemon Law Remedies

You may be entitled to remedies provided under the lemon laws. The manufacturer of your vehicle may be required to buy back the vehicle or may be required to replace the vehicle if you have met the requirements for making a reasonable number of repair attempts. You may also reserve the right to request a refund rather than to have the manufacturer replace the lemon car. You are protected under the statutes which states in the California Civil Codes Article 3, 1793.2 that, “the buyer shall be free to elect restitution in lieu of replacement, and in no event shall the buyer be required by the manufacturer to accept a replacement vehicle.”

You may also recover the expenses related to any incidental damages and the cost of any costs or fees associated with the sale of the car, such as sales tax added to the purchase price, or license fees. Document each issue with the vehicle and make sure that it is clearly noted on each repair order. Make sure that you keep all receipts and other documents related to the repair of the vehicle. Do not leave the dealership without having a copy of each repair order.

Consumers have certain responsibilities under lemon laws. You cannot abuse the vehicle or attempt to file a claim under lemon laws for an off-road vehicle. Lemon laws do not apply to off-road vehicles. They also do not apply to motor homes or to any part of a motor home that is designed for habitation by a person or persons.

You must consider the statute of limitations when considering starting an action under the lemon laws. The statute of limitations is four years, which begins when you first noticed, or should have noticed the issues with the car or another covered vehicle. If you do not comply with the state statute of limitations, you will likely not be able to seek or obtain remedies under the lemon law statutes. The statute of limitations applies to all covered vehicles and not just cars. Remember that some examples of vehicles that may be covered under lemon laws include trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, vans, travel trailers, or recreational vehicles (RVs).

Do not wait until the last minute to contact an attorney to represent you in your lemon law case. You need to contact an attorney as soon as possible so that the attorney can obtain the necessary information and documents and to proceed with the best strategy to get you the remedies afforded under lemon laws.

How Do I Proceed with a Lemon Law Claim?

Consumers are likely to feel overwhelmed when trying to understand federal or state lemon laws and how they apply to their particular situation. The lengthy and complex laws may seem difficult to comprehend and even more difficult to know how to proceed with a claim under the lemon laws.

You do not have to try to learn or understand the laws that apply to the purchase of a lemon. You have rights and protections when you purchase a vehicle and discover that it is a lemon. It is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to seeking successful remedies under the state or federal lemon laws. Turn to experienced lemon law lawyers that have expertise in the laws and how the laws apply to each consumer. Attorneys that have a high success record understand that each case is different and know how to apply the laws to each individual consumer lemon law case.

You have choices when considering an attorney to represent you and guide you through the process of understanding how lemon laws protect you and how to file a claim related to your lemon vehicle. Do not make the mistake of hiring the first attorney that you see in your search results. Turn to an attorney who has expertise in lemon law and who has the skill to aggressively represent their clients to obtain a settlement and to resolve each case with the best possible outcome.

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