So you took out a loan and the only juice in your new set of wheels is of the lemon variety. Have no fear: If you know your state’s lemon laws—and the myths behind them—you might get your money back.
Lemon laws vary from state-to-state. In Texas, you can file a “lemon” claim right there at the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. In Kansas, the lemon law gives you your money back after four unsuccessful attempts to repair a single defect. While all states share board-based avenues of recourse for consumers stuck with a toxic car, that doesn’t mean you should take anything for granted.
Let’s set the record straight, first with some steps to avoid a new “lemon,” and then the common myths that could hold you back if you enter into a lemon law recourse.
The Kansas Attorney General’s Office has a good, common sense list of tips you should cover before signing any new car agreements.
- Read and understand the warranty before the sale/lease. Make sure you know exactly what is covered, and for how long.
- Before taking delivery of your new vehicle, inspect it. If any problems are noticed, refuse delivery until they're corrected.
- Read, understand and follow maintenance requirements in the owner's manual.
- Keep records of all car maintenance to prove, if necessary, the defect was not caused by your abuse or negligence.
- If problems develop, contact the dealer as soon as possible.
- Keep a record of the date and nature of all repairs made to your car. Be sure to obtain a copy of the service order from the dealer stating exactly what repairs were made to your vehicle.
- Keep a record of all contacts made to the dealer or manufacturer. Keep copies of all letters and records of all telephone calls. This may later help prove what was said and may help you avoid misunderstandings.
If you find yourself dealing with serious new car problems, and are pursuing your options under your state’s lemon laws, start by checking this list of state-by-state lemon laws, courtesy of Lemon-Law-Types.com.
Past that, be aware of the growing number of myths associated with consumer lemon laws. For example:
Don’t assume that only cars are covered by lemon laws. While rules vary from state-to-state, most state laws not only cover autos, but also motorcycles, trucks, SUVs, campers, and even mini-scooters. In short, anything that comes with a set of wheels and a warranty is likely covered by your state’s lemon laws.
Don’t assume that once your problems is fixed, your rights under the lemon law statutes go away. If you experience a problem, and that problem is fixed, you still are protected by lemon laws if the same problem occurs again. In addition, if your original problem is repaired, and you have a separate repair issue, you’re still likely covered by your state’s lemon laws. If anything, having your case on record will likely help you if you find yourself back seeking recourse on a separate problem on a new car.
Don’t assume you only have a short-time period to file a lemon law suit. While there are likely state laws that limit the time in which you can ask for repairs on a specific problem, in many cases, there is no time limit to file a lemon law case. In Michigan, for example, the state’s lemon law limits you to four repairs within the two years of the first repair attempt. But Michigan law does not set a timetable to enter a lawsuit under its lemon law statutes.
To cover your tracks, and to build some protection against potential lemon situations, study your state’s lemon laws, and follows those tips listed above to ensure you’ll never have to deal with a lemon law in the first place.