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Lemon Laws and Car Dealers Who Won't Pay Up

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Lemon Laws and Car Dealers Who Won't Pay Up

Charles Essmeier
August 1, 2006

Buying a car or truck is an expensive proposition. With new cars often costing more than $20,000 and car loans averaging nearly six years in duration, it only stands to reason that consumers expect those vehicles to work reliably when they buy them. Sometimes they do not, and for those cases, each of the fifty states has passed an auto lemon law. Those laws were passed to simplify the process by which a consumer with a habitually defective vehicle could seek relief in the form of either a replacement vehicle or a refund of the purchase price. Understandably, dealers and manufacturers are often reluctant to hand over the money or a new car, and frequently offer a variety of excuses for failing to do so.

Here are some of the more common excuses offered by dealers when presented with a defective automobile:

  • The vehicle is neglected or abused – All fifty states offer exemptions for vehicles from their lemon law statutes if the vehicle has been abused, neglected or modified by the owner in a manner that is not approved by the manufacturer. There are certainly cases where neglect or abuse may apply, but dealers often suggest these problems right away in order to chase the owner away. If you know that you have not abused, neglected, or modified your car, then you know that you still have a valid claim. Don’t let the dealer chase you away by simply declaring the vehicle to be misused.

  • The vehicle’s defect is not a significant one – The laws declare pretty clearly what is and is not a qualifying defect. Such defects need not, by definition, be significant; they need only adversely affect the safety, use, or value of the vehicle. These things are best determined by courts of law or arbitration panels; don’t let the dealer scare you away by telling you the problem isn’t important.

  • Suggesting that the defect is not actually a defect. In this case, the dealer suggests that the problem is common to all similar vehicles. It’s not a defect, so much as a manufacturing problem. It’s not your car, the dealer will say, they are all like that. If they are all like that, then the problem can’t be a defect, can it? Yes, it can. Don’t fall for this one.

  • Suggesting that you haven’t qualified due to an insufficient number of repair attempts. Each state has its own rules for the number of repair attempts that qualify a vehicle as a lemon. You should check with your state’s Attorney General’s office to find out how many repair attempts qualify a vehicle as defective in your state. Don’t take the dealer’s word for it; he isn’t looking out for you.

    It can be difficult, time consuming, and frustrating to file a lemon law claim. Under the laws of your state, you are entitled to a replacement or refund if your vehicle qualifies under the law. Don’t expect your dealer to go out of his or her way to offer your refund; you will have to insist upon it yourself. But if you do have a case, make sure that you stand your ground.

    ©Copyright 2006 by Retro Marketing. Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to informational Websites, including LemonLawHelp.net, a site devoted to information regarding lemon laws for automobiles and Car-Insurance-Help.net, a site about car insurance.

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