The average new car cost buyers more than $36,000. With so much money on the line, you need that car to work reliably.
If you have to spend more time in the mechanic’s shop than you do enjoying your new car, you may have a lemon on your hands.
The lemon law is in place to protect you from having to continue to pay for repeat repairs that never seem to fix the problem. So, what is the lemon law really and how does it work for you?
Here’s what you need to know.
The Lemon Law Is Not a Warranty
The first thing you need to understand about the lemon law is that it’s completely separate from your car’s manufacturer warranty. The warranty covers the cost of repairs or replacements due to manufacturer defects found in your car.
If you have an issue, the manufacturer will typically honor the warranty and pay for repairs completed at your dealership.
The lemon law is an actual law and protects you even if you’ve already filed warranty claims. The terms of the lemon law vary from state to state and the only way to know what types of defects you’re protected from is to get to know your state’s specific details.
In most states, the lemon law only applies to new cars or certified used vehicles that are still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
The Law Only Applies for Unrepairable Issues
While the issues that the lemon law covers are vast, the law only works for repeat and unrepairable issues in your car. This means you must take your car to the mechanic to get the same issue fixed repeatedly.
If nothing seems to fix the problem, the car qualifies as a lemon and you’re ready to file the claim. However, those problems must be due to a serious manufacturer’s defect.
The problems should impact the way the car runs. The lemon law won’t cover you from cosmetic defects or issues with non-essential equipment like the radio.
If the damage or problems come from the way you drive or the conditions the car gets exposed to on a regular basis, you’ll have to pay the full cost of repairs. Your mechanic will be able to let you know what type of damage you’re dealing with.
Remember, it’s okay to get a second opinion if you feel the damage is due to a defect rather than the way you drive. Try to look for a mechanic that’s certified to work with your make and model vehicle. This way, they’ll know what to look for and be better equipped to find manufacturer defects in the first place.
You’ll Need to File a Lemon Law Claim
If you think you have a lemon, you’re going to need to file a claim with the manufacturer. You can do this on your own by contacting the manufacturer directly.
Your owner’s manual should have the relevant phone numbers printed inside. To file the claim, you’ll need to provide proof that you took your car to the mechanic for the same issue multiple times.
Ideally, you’ll have the receipts and service statements on-hand from each appointment. If you don’t, contact the dealership to get copies of those documents.
If you’re getting your car serviced at your dealership, the dealership may be able to initiate the claim on your behalf. This is ideal as they’ll likely be able to speed the process up by several weeks.
The sooner you initiate the claim, the faster you’ll get into a new car without major mechanical issues.
What Happens After You File a Claim
The manufacturer will review your claim in detail. They’ll look at your service records and may contact the mechanic you worked with for more information.
If they deem that the issue was the result of a manufacturer’s defect, they’ll either offer you a vehicle replacement or buy the car back from you.
Keep in mind that the replacement you receive will likely be the same year and model as the lemon. This helps the manufacturer ensure an even trade.
If you choose to allow the manufacturer to buy the car back, the amount you receive may not be what you paid. Most manufacturers deduct a portion of the value for the time you were able to use the car.
Be Prepared to Fight for Your Rights
Unfortunately, you have no guarantee that the manufacturer will accept your claim, even if the dealership feels that you’re covered under the lemon law for new cars.
If the manufacturer denies your claim, don’t take it sitting down. Fight back.
Hire an experienced attorney to prove that your claim meets the definition of lemon law coverage for your state. Contesting the claim on your own isn’t in your best interest. You’ll need someone to remind the manufacturer of their obligations to you and the best way to do that is to hire a legal expert.
It’s Best to Avoid Buying a Lemon in the First Place
The best way to deal with the lemon law is to avoid buying a lemon in the first place. Though there’s no way to guarantee that the car you buy won’t have manufacturer defects, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk.
Research the make and model before you buy the car. If hundreds of other drivers filed lemon law claims for that car or expressed frustration over repeat repairs, keep looking.
Whenever possible, buy your car from a trustworthy dealership who can help you navigate the claims process more quickly.
Taking the Mystery Out of the Question, “What Is the Lemon Law?”
If you’re dealing with repeat mechanical issues that keep you from enjoying your new car, you’ve likely asked yourself, “what is the lemon law and how can I take advantage of it?” Now that you understand the law, what it covers, and how to handle a claim, you’re ready to hold the manufacturer accountable.
Just remember that it’s okay to hire an attorney to represent your case if the manufacturer denies the claim. The sooner you do, the faster you’ll get back on the road.
Looking for more helpful tips to make owning and maintaining your car easy? Check out our latest posts.