Nobody wants to buy a lemon, but when your vehicle is suffering from repeated issues, that may get you wondering if it’s time to take actions beyond simply heading to the mechanic for a repair attempt. Thing is, different states have different criteria that need to be met in order for a car to be considered a lemon. So, your lemon law rights in San Francisco are likely going to vary from those in Houston or Chicago. Still there are some general factors that will remain applicable (broadly) across states, so let’s take a look at what you should know.
First, is that there’s actually federal law that covers many lemon situations, found in Title 15 Chapter 50 of the US Code, Sections 2301-2312 (also known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Federal Trade Commission Improvements Act). The most applicable section being 2304(a)(1):
“If the product (or a component part thereof) contains a defect or malfunction after a reasonable number of attempts by the warrantor to remedy defects or malfunctions in such product, such warrantor must permit the consumer to elect either a refund for, or replacement without charge of, such product or part”
What counts as a reasonable number of attempts? This is a factor that can vary from case-to-case and state-to-state. Similarly, what counts as lemon can also vary, so you might be wondering, does that car you bought with the poor gas mileage count?
That depends on whether or not the nature of the defect is considered substantial or not. In the State of California, for instance, the vehicle defect must compromise the use, value, or safety of your vehicle, and gas mileage may or may not fall under that definition, depending on what is causing the issue and whether or not it can be repaired in a reasonable number of attempts.
If you’ve bought a vehicle you suspect to be a lemon, you should be prepared to present plenty of paperwork to support your claims, and you’ll almost always want to hire an attorney who can help you navigate the specific rules for your state if you’re trying to pursue some sort of action from the manufacturer to either replace or refund your vehicle.
Of course, you’ll have the easiest time if you can avoid buying lemons in the first place, and for that, Consumer Reports has 13 tips that can help you steer clear of vehicles with hidden problems, which include advice like the following:
- Check the reliability records
- Read the window sticker
- Check the exterior
- Check the interior
- Check under the hood
- Check the steering
- Check the suspension
- Check the tires
- Check the tailpipe
- Step on the gas
- Check for recalls and TSBs
- Check the vehicle’s history
- Go to a mechanic
Long story short, you should thoroughly inspect every system you can before you purchase a car, and for the stuff you can quite figure out yourself, visit a mechanic to have them diagnose any potential issues. This should give you the greatest chance of discovering defects before they become a serious problem for you.