Lemon law basically gives the used car buyer an “out” if the vehicle they purchase turns out to be a lemon, a car with persistent mechanical problems that is undriveable. You have a certain number of days following the purchase to take action and get your money back from the seller.
Although in most cases you are protected, you have to make sure the sale came with a warranty. If the car was purchased from a dealer, you will definitely have received a warranty with it. If you buy it from an independent, the existing warranty should carry over. Just make sure you keep all of the paperwork involved in the transaction just in case you ever need to use or reference it again.
Note that some states do not include used or leased cars under their lemon protection statutes. Make sure you check the laws in your particular state before pursuing a lemon law claim.
Another important element to consider is whether or not you need an attorney to file your claim. In some states you can simply file the claim with your attached paperwork…in others you will need an attorney to file on your behalf. Attorney fees may or may not be recoverable, again depending on the state that you file the claim in.
How can you avoid having to deal with a lemon? There are several things you can do:
1. Buy from a reputable dealer or seller. Although it’s difficult to determine whether an independent seller is on the up and up, do your best to determine whether or not he or she is being honest about the vehicle. Asks questions. If the seller is being evasive in any way, or hesitates, don’t be afraid to walk away from the deal. There are other cars out there.
2. Run a vehicle history report on the used car right away. Get the 17 character VIN from the car and run a check to see what kind of history the car has. If it’s been in an accident or has a ton of miles or suffered any serious damage, it will come up on the report. You’ll be able to see firsthand if it’s the right car for you.
3. Take it to a mechanic. Just because the car looks great and seems to drive OK doesn’t mean there aren’t any hidden problems. Have a professional take a good look under the hood, at the tires, and everywhere else to determine if it’s worth buying.
Lemon law can certainly help you out in most cases, but if you can avoid the headache you’ll be much better off. Be smart when buying a used car…do extensive due diligence and avoid making multi-thousand dollar mistake!