Both federal and state laws protect you if you purchase a vehicle that suffers problems almost from the moment you drive it off the lot. If the problem is common to an entire batch of vehicles produced by the manufacturer, the manufacturer will issue a recall. If your car doesn't share the same problem with millions of others, you may have a lemon.
Manufacturers Usually Initiate Recalls
U.S. law requires that auto manufacturers recall vehicles that have safety issues. The problem must be a defect that makes it unsafe or unreasonable for you to operate the vehicle. Parts that can be expected to suffer some wear and tear (like shock absorbers), and minor issues (like malfunctioning stereo systems), don't qualify for recalls. A recalled vehicle must be repaired free of charge.
Lemons Are Unfixable
Both state and federal laws address lemons, and state laws can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, in Texas your new car must usually still be under factory warranty, and you must have given the dealership at least four chances to try to fix its problem in two years, or within the car's first 24,000 miles.If the problem is a serious safety hazard, it may qualify as a lemon after only two failed attempts at repair. Depending on your state's laws, your vehicle might also qualify if it's been in the shop so much for various problems that you've been without use of it for 30 days. Those days don't have to be consecutive. If your dealership gave you a loaner, the days you had the loaner don't count toward the total.
You Can Be Compensated for Buying a Lemon
If your car is a lemon, you can have the purchase price refunded and then use the money to pay off any loan you might have against the vehicle.Depending on the laws in your state, you might receive a replacement vehicle instead. However, these compensations only apply to vehicles purchased new. If you bought a used lemon, you can usually only recover the cost of repairs, and only if the car is still under factory warranty.
Not All Bad Cars Qualify as Lemons
Lemon laws exclude some problems. If you install any parts not approved by the manufacturer, you usually can't ask for compensation if the car then develops a problem. If the problem is due to your own abuse or neglect, your vehicle doesn't qualify as a lemon.The problem must also affect your safe operation of the vehicle. If your side mirror rattles whenever you drive over a bump, and if the dealership can't find a solution, your car isn't a lemon. It just has an annoying problem.
A Consumer Law Attorney Can Help
The law surrounding automobile recalls and lemon laws is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a consumer law attorney.