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Understanding the Lemon Law

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When a purchase fails to meet quality and performance standards, we call it a lemon. The Lemon Laws, which is the common nickname for the various state laws, provide legal remedies to consumers who purchase cars, RVs, boats, motorcycles, wheelchair and computers that turn out to be lemons. The federal lemon law, more properly the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, can cover purchases in any state. Even if your purchase is stated upfront as being in “as is” condition, you may still be eligible under the federal or state lemon laws to pursue damages. However, as state laws vary, your state may or may not cover used or leased vehicles. The term “vehicle” is being used to mean any article purchased, as listed above.

Under the laws of your state, your rights may surpass those rights awarded to you in any purchase contract warranties. California law and federal law cover mechanical failures, but that may not be the case in your state. You should consult an attorney if you wish to pursue a claim under the lemon laws. Be advised that your attorney fees may be covered by the seller or warrantor, if you are successful in your claim.

Not all purchases are covered under the lemon laws. You may be able to sue for other damages under certain situations. For instance, you may have a claim for breach or warranty if there was manufacturer warranty still in effect on a vehicle at the time of purchase or if you purchased an extended warranty. Some used vehicles have been “certified” by the dealer which may increase an existing warranty or add a short warranty under which you may have a breach of warranty claim. These claims would not fall within the scope of the state lemon law, although they maybe covered under the federal law.

There are also consumer protection laws that are not part of the lemon laws and which may also cover a purchase. If there is no warrant existing on the purchase, you may be eligible for damages as a result of violations of these laws. An example of such a situation would be if there were issues with the vehicle which the seller know about but did not disclose, like if there were previous mechanical problems, if the vehicle had been in an accident, in a flood or was salvaged, if the odometer had been tampered with, if the vehicle had been stolen and/or rebuilt, or if the vehicle was previously a police car, a taxi or a rental car.
There are also technical service bulletins, issued by manufactures, which can tell you if there may be a potential issue with a particular vehicle or product. Sadly, dealers are not obligated to share that information with you upon making a purchase. Therefore, it is wise before making a purchase to be sure to do your homework. No one can be certain that what they are getting is what they paid for all the time, but there are steps you can take to make sure that you aren’t being taken by an unscrupulous sales person.

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