What Qualifies as a Lemon?
Old cars that have faulty electrical work, broken air conditioners, an annoying rattle or rust do not qualify as "lemons." However, if the brakes, the gears, the starter or the acceleration appear faulty and the manufacturer can't repair the defect, then it might be a lemon car.
According to some state laws, as much as 10 different defects may not necessarily make a car a lemon. Yet in other states, one serious defect can entitle the consumer to compensation.
The federal law defines a lemon as any new vehicle that has a serious defect that isn't fixed within "a reasonable number" of attempts or after "a certain number of days" out of service. Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the buyer is protected for any product costing more than $25 that comes with a written warranty.
The Uniform Commercial Code allows for consumers to get a refund or replacement for "lemon" products. As one can see, these federal laws are vague at best. It's the state-specific laws that really specify what restitution is given for the defect and what constitutes as a lemon purchase.
Different Laws In Different States
At that point, the dealer has the opportunity to attempt to fix the problem. The vehicle may then return to the manufacturer for up to three more times or be off the road for 15 days before a "defect notification form" may be filed. They may also be eligible for a refund or trade-in.
To be eligible for lemon law protection, the consumer must have copies of documentation regarding the vehicle and its history. For instance, the initial purchase contract, warranty book and manual should all be kept.
Also, all the paperwork from any repairs that needed to be completed should also be held onto. This will show exactly how much work has been done on this supposedly "fine" vehicle. Many consumers elect to take written notes of conversations with dealership representatives and repair technicians.
Do Your Research
Sometimes a particular problem is simply associated with a particular vehicle, so Technical Service Bulletins should be looked up to see if this applies to the consumer's purchase. It often helps a case to write up a timeline that clearly shows each repair by date, as well as the number of times the vehicle has been serviced or taken off the road for repairs.
Even if dealers or mechanics advise against seeking the lemon law for protection, there is still a chance the consumer may qualify, so a licensed attorney should be contacted instead.