In a list of expensive purchases that are supposed to last, a car tops the list. It’s supposed to be a lasting purchase. So, when your newly bought car spends more time in a mechanic’s garage than on the road or even in your own garage, then you’ve landed yourself a lemon.
No one likes going to the mechanic and it’s worse when you just bought your car. However, there comes a point when the repairs are too constant and you’re left needing to act. You have the power to advocate for yourself when it comes to seeking a refund or demanding the dealer to buy back the lemon.
Here’s a list of strategies that can help you when buying a lemon car:
Ask yourself if your car is a lemon
Just because a car breaks down and annoys you doesn’t mean it’s a lemon. For it to be classified as one, it needs to regularly fail a set of standards covered by the warranty. You’ll also know that it’s a lemon if you continue to bring your car to a mechanic and he’s unable to make a lasting repair or find out where the issue is coming from.
Know why lemons occur
Lemons occur because it’s not a financially sound business strategy to make a line of cars that never break down or need to be replaced. This is a regular occurrence.
In 2018 alone, there were reports to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about lemons. The list included the following:
- Jeep Compass with faulty dash backlighting
- Chevy Equinox with faulty gear shaft and driveshaft reports
- Honda Accord with malfunctioning breaks
- Toyota Camry with acceleration issues
The list isn’t an exaggeration and it isn’t a matter of your budget being at stake, too. It’s more about your life or the lives of your family being compromised.
Know the law
Simple aggravation doesn’t count. If your car annoys you, that doesn’t make it qualify as a lemon. There are specific conditions such as repeated failing repairs, excessive time at the mechanic and other conditions that your car must meet to qualify as a lemon. And these criteria vary from state to state.
Be aware that cosmetic defects aren’t covered by the lemon law. Any surface damages from negligence, abuse or vandalism that is not directly connected to the manufacturer aren’t counted as well. It also doesn’t cover any additions or alterations you made to your car, like adding a spoiler or a new sound system.
Support your case
Time is against you in the case of owning a lemon. You need to act fast if you want to make sure that your case is processed and you receive compensation. While this varies depending on the state you are in, this usually gives you roughly two years to make a claim.
Be careful because some states will look at the odometer as an indicator of responsibility. So, it’s always better to take care of this sooner rather than later. Record any cost of repairs, keep receipts, and make a journal illustrating the days your car was in the shop.
Once you are fed up with the repairs, approach your dealer and request a refund, buyback or replacement. If the dealer refuses, make another request in writing. Remember to be polite as this will benefit you in the long run. If they still say no, then it’s time to think about an attorney.
Understand the compensation
There are generally three options dealers must do to rectify the situation according to the lemon law:
- Replacement: Here, your current lemon is replaced with a new car. If you decide to seek the help of a lawyer on this, the fees for the lawyer are paid by the dealer directly.
- Return: In this case, the dealer purchases your car from you, allowing you to buy a different car. Again, if you seek the assistance of a lawyer, the dealer pays the arbitration fees directly.
- Cash: If you’re okay with owning a lemon but believe a cash payout would be more beneficial, then the dealer can award you a sum. In this case, the lawyer fees come out of that compensation.
Seek legal support
While anyone is capable of seeking compensation via the lemon law alone, a lawyer will help expedite the process. You are able to complain to the government, go to court, or even sue without a lawyer but having one will streamline the process. Remember, there are dealers out there that will drag this process out.
Having a lawyer, especially when the fees are covered by the dealer, will help make sure you are justly rewarded for your troubles. Plus, they’re able to tell you right away if you have a strong case.
Lemonade instead of just a lemon
Lemon law is not widely known. Most people think that if you buy a bad car, you’re simply stuck with it. The reality is that there are laws in place to protect consumers and make sure that businesses don’t take advantage of them by intentionally selling defective products or products that could potentially be deadly.
These laws vary from state to state but are designed to be encompassed in the protection they offer to consumers. And while it is possible to go at it alone, there’s no downside to hiring a lawyer. At worse, you get support through this process and at best, you come out with a better deal than you had going in, all with barely, if any, fees.