Picture this: You visit a dealership showroom to buy a car you’ve been looking to own. It looks all polished up and shining on the lot. You test drive it and everything seems fine. Completely satisfied, you pay for it and drive off the lot.
A few days later, the steering wheel starts acting up in the middle of a highway. You try turning to the left but the car refuses to turn. In a flash, it veers off the road and completely breaks down. Upon inspection, it dawns on you that the car needs close to $5,000 in repairs. That’s more or less the definition of a lemon!
What Are Lemon Cars?
These are vehicles with considerable defects that the seller cannot fix even after several attempts. A lemon car can be new or used. A new one is considered to be a lemon if it has a mechanical defect that an automaker accidentally missed.
A used car with no manufacturing defect also qualifies to be a lemon if the seller fails to disclose the vehicle’s history or condition. This includes previous accidents, frame damage, tampered odometer, and a misrepresented title among others.
Lemon cars pose significant safety issues and are dangerous to drive. Furthermore, an inoperable vehicle becomes a liability rather than an asset.
It is illegal for a dealer or private seller to sell you a vehicle that’s not in good condition without mentioning it beforehand. Indeed, most states have in place lemon laws that make it possible for buyers to get a replacement or a refund in these kinds of situations.
A Brief Overview of Lemon Laws
First, a little disclaimer we are not attorneys, we’re car salesmen :). This is not legal advice. Please consult with your attorney for legal advice.
Lemon laws are regulations that entitle consumers to get a refund or a replacement for a car that repeatedly fails to meet quality and performance standards. These laws apply to significant mechanical defects that impact the use, safety, or value of a vehicle. Lemon laws can be broken down into federal lemon law and state lemon law.
Federal Lemon Law
Also known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, this law regulates consumer purchases that are covered by express warranties. Manufacturers write express warranties to make specific promises regarding product repair. You can only make this lemon law claim if you bought a new or used vehicle that’s covered by warranty.
If your newly bought car malfunctions in some way, the Act requires the warrantor (automaker) to correct the defects within a reasonable number of times. Usually, the court determines “a reasonable number of times” and can be three or four.
Should the manufacturer fail to do it, they should refund or replace the car with no additional costs on the consumer.
State Lemon Laws
Many U.S states have established their own lemon laws to complement their federal counterparts. These laws vary by state, but in general, defective vehicle owners may qualify for reimbursement or replacement if they meet several requirements within the warranty term.
Under the Lemon Law in Texas for example, owners must have taken the vehicle to the dealership or manufacturer to repair the defect at least four times during the first two years of vehicle ownership, or within the initial 24,000 miles. This is known as the Four Times Test. Furthermore, car owners need to accompany their application with a $35 filing fee.
In the case of a life-threatening safety hazard, the vehicle’s owner may only need to take the vehicle to the dealership twice for repairs to qualify for relief under the Texas Lemon Laws. The Lemon Law is somewhat technical. Indeed, you might want to contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles for specific information and guidance.
Used Car Dealer Sold Me a Lemon: Should I Sue Them?
While it’s an option, suing a dealer or automaker for selling you a lemon may not always make sense. Before going through a lawsuit, send a formal letter to the seller detailing your claim and your preferred remedy. If they deny it, then you can hire a lemon law attorney to take legal action.
The court should only be your last resort if the dealer or automaker refuses to deal with the defective vehicle. Even so, you should think carefully before taking this route. In most cases, it takes way too long to get closure, not to mention the significant attorney fees involved.
Besides, most dealers will also hire expert lawyers which complicates the situation and makes winning the case harder. This is why exercising caution while buying a used car is better to avoid falling for a lemon.
How to Avoid Falling for Lemons in the Future
Before you buy a pre-owned car or truck, you’ll want to check its title history and maintenance record. The car’s vehicle identification number (VIN for short) should be your secret weapon. This number can reveal a vehicle history report, including if it’s been involved in a crash, damaged in a flood, had its odometer rolled back, or branded a lemon.
For starters, you can use AutoCheck platform. Pay close attention to the sections of the vehicle history report that outline car’s ownership and maintenance records. If you find out that the manufacturer had repossessed the car at some point after selling it to an individual, that’s a red flag. Additionally, if there have been multiple repairs for the same defect within a short time, it should be reason enough to get concerned.
The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System can also come in handy. It provides additional details about a car’s title, damage history, and odometer data. If the title has notations like “rebuilt” or “damaged”, it means the vehicle has had a fair share of dents and dings. Steer clear of such vehicles at all costs.
We Sell Clean Used Cars at Motors on Wheels
And we also buy them, as long as they’re not a lemon :).
Dealing with a lemon car isn’t something you want to do. Worse still, taking legal action against a used car dealer that sold you a lemon can be a costly and stressful affair. If you’re looking for a clean used car to buy, here at Motors on Wheels, we’re here to help.
We’ve been in business for more than 15 years and our reviews on Google speak highly of our passion and integrity for this business.
We’re a top used car seller in the Texas cities of San Antonio, Austin, and Houston. All our cars are subjected to a thorough 51-point inspection to ensure that you’re getting a vehicle with no issues whatsoever. If you’re looking to buy a new car of your dream, stop by our showroom today and get the best service you’ll live to remember!