How the lemon law protects you:
Internet ScamBusters #77
Below you'll find out what the lemon law is, recommendations for how to avoid buying 'lemons,' what to do if you need to take advantage of your state's lemon law, and a good resource for finding each state lemon law. Let's go...
The Lemon Law
The state lemon law is found under every State's consumer legislation, which governs pretty much everything about how goods can be sold, in what kind of condition, and under what terms and circumstances.
The lemon law legislation is intended to protect the average consumer (who isn't expected to know everything!) from the fraudulent sales of goods, including motor vehicles.
These laws have come to be called 'lemon laws' because vehicles that have more-than-your-average-amount of repairs and mechanical troubles are called 'lemons.' Some of these lemon laws cover RVs, boats and motorcycles, in addition to cars and trucks.
Each state's lemon law is different. We've recently created a site that gives a summary and the full text for each state lemon law -- you can find it here.
Here are 8 ways to protect yourself from ever needing to look up your state's lemon law:
1. Do your research. If a particular make or year of vehicle appeals to you, find out everything you can about that vehicle. There may even be current claims made according to the lemon laws. There are lots of consumer report sites online, books you can buy, and magazines you can read that have documented 'the good, the bad, and the ugly' on almost every make and model of vehicle sold in North America.
2. If you are buying a used vehicle, take it for a test drive. If you are not familiar with mechanics, try to bring someone along with you who is -- and make sure he or she has a good look at the engine, the body, the front end and the rear end of the vehicle. Better that than having to look up your state's lemon law!
3. Look up the 'Blue Book' value of the particular vehicle. The Blue Book has a listing for every vehicle's value according to some national standards. Avoid paying more for a vehicle than the 'Blue Book' price.
4. The old adage, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is," has never been more true than when applied to buying a used vehicle.
Use common sense when you are thinking of purchasing one. Is there a reason the car's been sitting for a year? Why do you suppose the rear door looks 'different' than the rest of the car?
Have your 'fraud antenna' up really high, and ask lots of questions -- an honest seller won't be offended by your extra caution -- and most sellers are aware of the state lemon laws.
5. Be sure to ask for a car fax report, which will detail if the vehicle has ever been in an accident.
6. Ask to see any historical documentation on the vehicle -- copies of repair or purchase orders, oil change logs, etc.
7. Check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of the vehicle to find out if it has ever been classified as a lemon according to the lemon law of your state. Visit:
8. Ask if there are any Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs), which are manufacturer's instructions to alert dealerships of problems in any particular models.
More ways to protect yourself:
If you have already bought a vehicle or are in the process of buying one, make sure you take the following steps to protect yourself even further:
1. Keep a notebook about every conversation you have with the person selling you the vehicle, including phone calls. Include the date and time, and enough information about what was discussed so it will jog your memory later if it's needed.
2. Ask to keep any documentation you looked at when you purchased the car (repair orders, etc.), including the warranty book and owner's manual. Then continue to keep copies of any further documentation regarding your vehicle from the moment it's yours.
If you have bought a vehicle that you think might 'qualify' as a lemon based on the definitions in the State lemon laws -- in other words, it has a long history of repairs -- sit down and create a 'timeline' organizing each shop visit by date, the number of repairs that have been done, and the amount of total time your vehicle has spent in repair shops and out of service.
If you think you might have a case, check out the state lemon law for where you live, and contact an attorney in the state where you purchased your vehicle.
That's it for now. Have a great -- and safe -- week!