What's A Lemon And Am I Protected If I Buy One?

June 27, 2017

Every year numerous complaints are filed with the Better Business Bureau. One of the types of complaints that the Better Business Bureau receives are those related to consumers purchasing a “lemon.” The Online Etymology Dictionary explains that the word “lemon” is used to describe something that is “worthless” or a “disappointment”. If you are experiencing numerous issues with your vehicle this law may apply.

What is the Lemon Law?

The Lemon Law exists in every state to protect auto owners. The law covers, “the rights of purchasers of new and used motor vehicles that do not function properly and which have to be repeatedly returned to the dealer for repairs.

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This coverage may also extend to those who lease vehicles. Some states such as Pennsylvania are working to extend the law to include motorcycles as well. Keep in mind this law only covers, “substantial defects, meaning defects that substantially impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle.” Consumers should also note that the law is only applicable for a certain period of time. The Better Business Bureau has a listing of the Lemon Law by the state.

Basic Maintenance: What is your responsibility?

One of the main things that auto owners can do to prevent vehicle malfunction is to keep up with recommended vehicle maintenance and repairs. The Lemon Law is not designed to be used for vehicle maintenance issues that have resulted from accidents, or from the owner inadequately caring for their vehicle. For instance, if you purchase a new vehicle and two days later you drive over a curb that tears off your muffler the company who sold you the vehicle is not liable for the repairs. It is a consumer based law that protects you in the event of manufacturing related defects.

What Should I do if I Purchased a Lemon?

If you suspect that you have purchased a lemon it would be best to schedule your vehicle to be serviced at the dealership in which you made your purchase. Should your situation have to be presented to an attorney this shows due diligence on your behalf to try and work with the dealership by allowing them to make needed repairs. Their denial or acceptance of your claim should be noted in writing if possible. Although dealing with situations like this can be intensely frustrating always try to keep your verbal and written responses as professional as possible. Remember, if your case is presented in court everything that you have done or said is likely to be presented as evidence as well. Most reputable businesses will do their best to provide high-quality customer service. Therefore, working with the dealership first to solve any issues pertaining to your vehicle is recommended.

How can I avoid purchasing a poor vehicle?

It may not officially fall under the lemon category, but there are several measures you can take to reduce the risk that the car you are purchasing is a ‘lemon’. Simple methods can be to thoroughly inspect the interior and exterior of the vehicle. Look for any dents, chipped paint, mismatched body panels or parts, and damaged windows on the exterior of the car, as those may be signs of a previous accident or mediocre repair work. Interiorly, look for things such as a sagging headliner, cracked dashboard, and missing buttons, handles, and knobs, as those could be signs of high usage or mistreatment of the vehicle.

Other indicators that the car may be poor can be seen in the engine, suspension, steering, tailpipe, and gas pedal. Make sure all of these areas function properly and there is not undocumented erosion, damage, or any indicators of overuse or lack of proper care. All of these functions of the car should operate regularly and normally, and if there is any irregularity, investigate further.

You should also examine the vehicle's history, or if any recalls were issued for the vehicle. A safe way to determine if the car is a smart investment is to bring it into a mechanic to inspect. You can also check to see if the car comes with a warranty, which validates the sellers trust that the car will function at the level of quality expected.

RepairPal is working to mend the lack of trust consumers have in the car repair industry by providing them with in-depth knowledge and resources that connect them with dependable and reliable car repair shops near them.

Our goal is to establish an auto repair process that is less stressful and much more trustworthy for everyone involved. Our website hosts a car repair Estimator that gets rid of that "ripped-off" feeling. We also provide matches to local Certified shops that are guaranteed to do repairs with quality parts, a fair price, and a trained, awesome staff.

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About the Author

Kimberlea Buczeke is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

1 User Comment

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By , July 28, 2017
Didnt know anything about lemons before reading this, now I feel really informed. Great info, thanks!