Every automobile manufacturer is guilty of producing faulty vehicles from time to time.
Even automakers with acclaimed reputations, like Toyota, Honda, and Mercedes produce hundreds of lemons each year. Some car brands produce lemons more frequently than others. According to Autoguide, the Fiat brand averages 1 lemon per every 76,808 vehicles, while Toyota averages 1 lemon per roughly every 11,600,000 vehicles.
If your car is proven to be a lemon, you may be legally entitled to a full buyback (refund) or vehicle replacement from the manufacturer. But while some defective vehicles qualify as a lemon, others are simply junk cars.
So, how can you tell if you’ve got a lemon (or a junk car) on your hands?
Signs You’ve Got a Lemon
Faulty vehicles must meet certain legal requirements to be deemed a lemon. Under most states, lemon law requires there to be a substantial defect that interferes with the safety, use, or value of the car. More importantly, this defect was not caused by driver abuse. Lemon law is only applicable if the defect occurs under the warranty period and the manufacturer is unable to repair the issue within a certain number of attempts.
If you detect a mechanical issue with your vehicle while under warranty, you need to compile all documents that support your claim and timeline. Be sure to collect a written report of every repair attempt made on your vehicle as well to prevent false claims from the manufacturer.
If your vehicle starts to display hazardous mechanical issues outside of the warranty, it cannot legally qualify as a lemon. In this case, you are left to try to repair, sell, or get rid of the junk vehicle without a legal buyback or replacement option from the manufacturer.
Your vehicle could also be disqualified as a lemon if it has a salvaged title. Used vehicles with salvage titles are sold at lower prices due to past accidents that caused significant damage to the car. Even after a vehicle is fixed, an auto manufacturer can use salvaged titles to argue against lemon claims by blaming mechanical defects on the car’s driving history.
Check Your Warranty Period
Each state has its own lemon laws, which means they have different specifications for what qualifies as a lemon. For instance, lemon law in states like Colorado and Illinois only applies to new vehicles covered under the original manufacturer warranty. California lemon law, on the other hand, can be applied to used cars – as long as they are covered under the manufacturer or dealer warranty.
You can typically file a lemon claim if your vehicle presents defects before the warranty period or mileage limitation is up. However, it is important to research your state's lemon law before filing a claim. If you are unsure about anything, it is best to consult an attorney that specializes in lemon law within your state. There can be some leeway on what qualifies as a defect or not depending on your specific vehicle issue and the wording of state lemon law.
For example, California requires at least two repair attempts on a defect - but does not always specify an exact number before the vehicle can qualify as a lemon. In this case, it would be best to connect with a lemon law lawyer California to see if you have a solid case.
See if Other Complaints have been Filed
You can research to see if the make and model of your car have caused issues to other drivers, too. Look for lists of the worst car brands of the year and similar articles. Also, you can search through online message boards to see if anyone with the same car has posted about similar defects and connect with them to discuss whether they took legal action to resolve the issue or not.
Check to see if there are any recalled parts for your vehicle. Oftentimes, manufacturers will list and notify buyers of recalled parts after they receive multiple complaints to avoid lemon law cases, fines, or other courses of legal action.
The majority of car dealerships will offer to repair defects for free to avoid issues and maintain positive customer relations. However, if the defect remains after several repair attempts you should consider contacting a lemon law lawyer.
When a recall is not explicitly shared promptly, groups of buyers may team up to file a class-action lawsuit against the manufacturer. However, it’s best to avoid a class action lawsuit if you meet the criteria for a lemon. Although these suits claim to get you money back at no cost to you, the payout is usually minimal.
You can get far more bang for your buck by getting a free part replacement from the recall or filing a lemon lawsuit on your own. Be prepared for the manufacturer to fight your claim to avoid buying back or replacing your car.
A qualified lemon law lawyer can help identify and combat common pushback tactics from automakers. Plus, if you end up winning your lemon law case, the manufacturer is obligated to pay for your legal expenses.
If you discover mechanical defects in your new or used vehicle while under warranty, you should check to see if it meets the qualifications for a lemon under your state’s laws. Consult articles and online forums to see if your vehicle trouble matches other drivers’.
Lastly, if you have any legal questions or wish to file a claim, you should consult a specialized lemon law attorney in your state to help you attain the buyback or replacement you are legally entitled to.
Published by Brian K. Cline