When you purchase a vehicle, federal and state laws protect you against being stuck with a defective vehicle, or a lemon. The law is not as clear cut when it comes to used vehicles. South Carolina law only covers used vehicles if they are new enough to qualify under lemon laws for new vehicles. However, consumer protection laws in South Carolina as well as federal laws require used car sellers to provide and abide by warranties.
As citizens of the United States, South Carolina residents enjoy protection under federal lemon laws. The Magnunsom-Moss law requires car dealers to provide consumers with a written warranty upon purchasing a vehicle. The warranty should spell out where to take the vehicle for repairs and who to contact if the vehicle appears to be defective. The Uniform Commercial Code requires car dealers to give residents in all 50 states a refund or a replacement vehicle if the vehicle is defective.
Technically, if you lease a vehicle you do not own it. Consumers pay a monthly fee to borrow the vehicle, similar to paying rent on an apartment. However, South Carolina law provides the same protections to consumers who lease vehicles as to consumers who purchase vehicles. If a leased vehicle is defective, the leasing company must provide the customer with a replacement vehicle or refund the money he has paid on the lease.
Definition of Defect
State laws differ in their definitions of what makes a vehicle defective. In South Carolina, a vehicle is considered to be defective if it is out of service for 30 calendar days within 1 year or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Used vehicles may not fall under these lemon laws because they have more than 12,000 miles on them to begin with. South Carolina does not have lemon laws covering used vehicles that are too old to qualify for new car lemon laws.
Other Laws Related to Used Cars
If your used vehicle does not qualify for protection under lemon laws, you still may be able to make a legal claim against the manufacturer if it violated other laws. Federal law requires used car sellers to provide a buyer's guide along with the sales contract. The buyer's guide informs consumers about the warranty, contract and the car's condition. If you do not receive a buyer's guide, you may be able to claim that the dealer violated the law. In addition, South Carolina law requires dealers to abide by the terms of all warranties. The law presumes an implied warranty on the vehicle even if the dealer does not provide a written warranty unless the dealer states that the car is sold "as is."
What to Do
If your vehicle is covered by lemon laws, contact the dealer as soon as you notice a defect. Document all conversations regarding the defect in writing and take in for repairs as soon as possible. South Carolina law requires the dealer to make three attempts to repair the vehicle before replacing it. You must also send a letter to the manufacturer informing him of the defect.
Whether your car is considered a lemon or not, you should contact an attorney if you cannot get satisfaction from the dealer and manufacturer. Your attorney should know the ins and outs of South Carolina law and be able to advise you as to your options as well as represent you in court if you need to sue to get your car replaced or get a refund.