If you've purchased a car that seems to be defective or has numerous issues, you may have a lemon on your hands. Although the situation isn't sweet, you'll still have to pay back the bank. Defaulting on the loan will only make the situation more sour and unpleasant. If your car is considered a lemon under your state's law, you may be entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund.
Definition of a Lemon
Although state lemon laws vary, all use the same basic criteria to define what constitutes a lemon. The car must have a substantial defect that begins within a specific period of time or miles after purchases. The majority of lemon laws cover vehicles for two years or 24,000 miles after you've taken ownership. In certain states, your lemon law rights don't end until the manufacturer's warranty expires. For the car to be considered as lemon, the defect must be persistent. This means that after a reasonable number of repair attempts by the dealer, the problem still isn't fixed. If the problem is a serious safety defect, a reasonable repair may be just one attempt. If the defect isn't serious, the dealer has three to four attempts.
New or Used Lemons
In most states, the lemon law only applies to new cars. However a few states extend the laws to cover used vehicles are well. At the time of publication, states with lemon laws extending to used vehicles include Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York. Other states, such as Arizona and Maine, have laws that set minimum warranty requirements dealers must offer for used vehicles. The lemon law or warranty details may be included in your sales contract. You also can contact your state's attorney general to inquire about the lemon laws or used car warranty requirements in your state.
Lemon Claim Process
If you suspect you've got a lemon, you'll need to prove it. You must bring the car to the manufacturer or its authorized dealer for the repairs. Keep all documentation, including receipts, to prove the repair attempts. The process may differ slightly among states, but you'll typically need to report the defect in writing to the manufacturer. Include the vehicle's identification number, problem, date of occurrence, repair dates and any documentation you have to support your complaint. When dealing within a lemon, the vehicle's manufacturer is responsible for any refunds or replacements.
Continue making your car payments even after submitting the lemon complaint to the manufacturer. If the manufacturer doesn't offer you an acceptable settlement, your state may require mediation before arbitration or a hearing. Although a lemon won't void your contact, a possible remedy is a refund of the sales price plus finance and other fees. The manufacturer may deduct some money from the sale price for your usage of the vehicle. Another option is a replacement vehicle of the same make and model.
Jeannine Mancini, a Florida native, has been writing business and personal finance articles since 2003. Her articles have been published in the Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Central Florida.