This has been coming up a lot lately, so I thought we should revisit the subject. I hear from people regularly who wonder if their vehicle qualifies for their stateís Lemon Law protection. This is a tough subject to cover, because every state has different laws and criteria. I want to be clear that I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on the radio, but I will try to give you generic information that could help.
Generally speaking, the Lemon Law comes into play when a particular problem cannot be fixed after repeated attempts. I have never seen cosmetic problems, or electronic accessories (like navigation or Bluetooth) come into play, it is normally something that affects the drivability of a vehicle. In most States, there is a minimum of three repair attempts for the same issue before you qualify.
Should you feel you have a Lemon Law case, your paperwork of repair attempts is very important, and not just having the paperwork in order, but also what it says. If the dealer is unable to reproduce the problem, that can hurt your case if it is written that way. Look at your repair order before you leave the dealership and make sure your issue was acknowledged. I often recommend people try a different dealership on the third attempt to repair a problem. Two dealers failing to make the repair will only strengthen your case.
Be aware too, that in some states, your vehicle has to be out of service for a certain amount of time, usually 30 days total during the warranty period. Again, check the paperwork as you leave the dealership to make sure the date you brought it in and the date you picked it up are accurate. Check odometer readings on your paperwork too, it is not uncommon for dealerships to transpose numbers or miss a digit, and this can be a nightmare to correct.
The question often comes up whether or not you need an attorney to win a Lemon Law case? The short answer is it depends on how consumer friendly your state is. In California, for instance, the Lemon Law is very pro-consumer. Often there, just the threat of a Lemon Law suit will get your case settled quickly. As a former new car Dealer, my experience in Texas was the consumer was at a disadvantage.
Also, do not think because you have a bad car, you get a new one with no strings attached. Most states have a complicated formula that requires you to pay for time and mileage used, and that comes off the price of the replacement car, and has to be dealt with. I have seen people win Lemon Law cases, but chose not to go through with it because the terms were not acceptable.
Finally, understand your dealership is on your side and can be a real ally should you need to file a Lemon Law case. Your dealer did not build the car, and it doesnít want to lose a customer, so it is in its best interest to assist you. Lemon Law cases are legal suits between you and the automaker.
Play your cards smart. If you think you have a slam-dunk Lemon Law case, based on the criteria of your state, contact the automaker directly (not the dealer) and lay your facts out. If your info is compelling enough, your automaker may voluntarily do a buy back with you, saving you the time and trouble of a trial.