What is a Lemon?
A “lemon” is a common phrase used to characterize a car that just doesn’t work as intended. It repeatedly fails to meet standards of quality and performance the manufacturer intended.
The Lemon Law covers defects or conditions that substantially impair the use, value or safety of a new vehicle (these are called “nonconformities”). These defects must be first reported to the manufacturer or dealer during the “Lemon Law Rights Period,” which is the first 24 months after the date of delivery of the motor vehicle to the consumer. If the manufacturer fails to conform the vehicle to the warranty after a reasonable number of attempts to repair these defects, the law requires the manufacturer to buy back the defective vehicle and give the consumer a purchase price refund or a replacement vehicle. DO NOT DELAY in reporting a problem as this may cost valuable time and protection.
KEEP RECORDS of all repairs and maintenance. A written repair order should be obtained from the service agent (dealer) for each examination or repair under the warranty. You should note the date(s) the vehicle was taken in for repair and date(s) keep a written list of the reasons you submitted the vehicle for repair (whats wrong with it), note the date(s) that you were notified that work was completed. Odometer mileage when the vehicle was taken to the shop and when it was picked up after repair should also be noted. Insist on receiving a repair order after the repairs are completed that lists the symptoms described, repairs done, any parts replaced, and the time the car was in the repair shop. Make sure to keep the repair order in addition to all other receipts or invoices for payment of expenses related to the vehicle repair work.
How do Auto Fraud cases differ from Lemon Law cases?
Although both involve motor vehicles, auto dealer fraud cases are very different from Lemon Law cases. In auto dealer fraud cases, improper tactics used by a car dealer during the vehicle sale process are the focus, while lemon law cases arise from problems or defects with the vehicle itself.
Who can use the Lemon Law?
In order for your car to be considered a “lemon” under Florida’s lemon laws, the car must be:
1.) bought or leased in Florida and
2.) still be under the original manufacturer’s warranty.
There are variations in warranty and you should check with the manufacturer, authorized dealer or another reputable source to verify the official terms of your manufacturer’s warranty.
The Lemon Law does not cover:
- The law does not cover defects that result from accident, neglect, abuse, modification or alteration by persons other than the manufacturer or its authorized service agent (Dealer).
- Trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight;
- Off-road vehicles;
- Vehicles which are purchased for purposes of resale;
- Motorcycles and mopeds;
- The living facilities of recreation vehicles.
When does the Lemon Law apply?
If your car IS under the original manufacturer’s warranty, then there are two things that classify it as a lemon:
1.) There are three failed repairs on the same problem.
2.) You sent your car into the repair shop and it’s taking longer than 15 days to get fixed.
What to do if my Vehicle is a Lemon?
Having a lemon car can be exhausting. Here’s what to do once you determine it is a lemon. In order for you to proceed with the lemon law process you must first:
Write a letter to the manufacturer stating the problem and listing all expenses associated with it, minus a reasonable amount for mileage.
It’s recommended that you get the legal guidance and advice at this time. The laws dealing with the manufacturer and the state can sometimes be complicated and having an attorney on your side will help and speed up the process, you can be sure they will have attorney’s on their side, you should too.
If you contact the manufacturer about the three failed repair attempts, the manufacturer has ten days to:
- Take the car back and remedy the problem within a reasonable time frame from the receipt of the letter.
If you contact the manufacturer about a repair that is taking longer than 15 days, then:
- If the manufacturer cannot repair it within 30 days upon receipt of your letter, you can file a claim with their informal settlement board
- If they do not have an informal settlement board, or you are not satisfied with their offer, you can notify the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that you wish to request a ruling by the New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board.
Used Cars as Lemons?
There is a common misconception out there that when something goes wrong after used vehicle purchase there is a lemon claim. The lemon law will only be available to you if the manufacturer’s original warranty is still current. If this is not the case and your new vehicle is purchased outside of the manufacturer’s warranty the lemon law will not work for you.
HOWEVER, this doesn’t mean a used vehicle purchaser is without remedies. There are many other laws and regulations that may be used to obtain compensatory damages and possible rescission (undoing the deal) when things are not working right with your new purchase. To pursue these other remedies it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you keep ALL documents that were signed when the vehicle was purchased. There may be many things in these documents that you might not be aware of that may be used in your favor. If this applies to you call and make an appointment for free document review/ and or consultation.
Lemons are sour, and can leave a bitter taste in your mouth. So if you think you have a Lemon, you should certainly try to take advantage of the laws in place to be compensated for your losses. One final remark. If your car is not quite technically a lemon (maybe you had it in the shop “only” 12 days or it’s a few months past the original warranty), there’s still a chance that there is actually something wrong with the car. If you have a used car that breaks down after your recent purchase. It’s suggested that you seek legal advice.