Auto Auction Baltimore sheds insight on the lemon law

Image via Flickr by Tim-Hoggarth

Have you purchased a new car only to discover you’ve had nothing but breakdowns, hassles, and unexpected expenses since you drove the vehicle off the lot? If so, you may be wondering if the lemon law can help you remedy the situation. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have lemon laws on the books. A federal version, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, passed in 1975.

While these laws are available to protect consumers, successfully arguing a case can be harder than you think. If you believe your car might be a lemon, discover what you need to know about your vehicle and the law.

What Relief Is Available Under the Law?

In theory, a manufacturer can be ordered to replace a defective vehicle or refund the entire purchase price, known as a buyback, less any mileage deductions. In practice, however, such results are rare. Before you can start a claim under the law, you must have exhausted all other remedies to resolve the situation, including a specified number of attempts at the dealership — most laws require three — and completing a formal lemon law arbitration process without success.

Laws vary from state to state, but once you’ve concluded that your car meets the lemon law requirements, see a lawyer to begin formal litigation.

What Are the Requirements for Lemon Law Litigation?

You can get a list of your state’s specific requirements by visiting the Center for Auto Safety website or inquiring at your state’s attorney general’s office. In most cases, all the following conditions must be met:

  • Your car must have been inoperable for at least 30 days of the first 12 months or 12,000 miles.
  • The vehicle must have a serious defect that substantially affects its value or poses a major safety hazard.
  • The problem must be reported to both the dealer and the manufacturer, and both dealer and manufacturer must be allowed to attempt to fix the issue if it is under the warranty period.
  • You must have made a “reasonable” number of attempts to resolve the situation with the manufacturer or dealer.
  • The manufacturer must be given written notification of one last attempt to remedy the problem before the law’s provisions become effective.

What Records Do I Need to Keep?

Your supporting documentation will be your key witness in your case, so be sure to take careful notes each time you phone or visit the dealership about the problem. Include dates, times, and names of people you spoke with. Give your dealership a written list of problems or symptoms each time you bring your car in for service, and note which, if any, were resolved.

Check the National Highway Traffic Administration’s website for any recalls or safety issues, and insist that your service technician notes these issues on your service records.

Document the date and time of every service appointment and the length of time your vehicle was in the shop. This documentation will help fulfill the inoperable requirements under the law.

Successfully litigating a lemon law case can be more difficult than most people realize. However, if you believe your vehicle qualifies for a lemon law case, know your rights and look for a lawyer experienced in handling these types of cases.