Bought a lemon lately? No, not the kind that makes your lips pucker and your ice tea tart, but the kind that you drive. A lemon, of course, is a car that's always breaking down and that doesn't perform like the dealer promised you it would. There's a good chance that these problems will be covered by the warranty in that big pack of documents the dealer handed you along with your car keys, but if the dealer or the manufacturer fails to honor that warranty or if you have to keep taking the car back for the same repairs over and over again, then you don't have to throw up your hands in despair and suffer from buyer's remorse. There's a good chance that federal and local laws have you covered and will provide some kind of remedy. Who says politicians never do anything important?
The most basic of lemon laws in the United States is theMagnuson-Moss Warranty Act, passed by Congress in 1975. The act covers warranties in general, including warranties onnew cars. It isn't your only protection against lemons, however. Each state of the union has its own lemon law extending your protection even farther, though how much farther depends on what state you live in. We'll talk about both the federal and state forms of lemon protection in this article. And though we don't have enough space here to talk about every form of lemon protection in the United States, it isn't hard to locate information on your local state lemon law through the Internet.
Magnuson Meets Moss
When Sen. Warren G. Magnuson, D-Wash., and Rep. John E. Moss, D-Calif., got together in 1975 to sponsor the law that eventually became known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, there was widespread abuse in the U.S. of warranty provisions. Products were sold without warranties, the warranties that they were sold with weren't always clear about what was covered, and getting a warranty enforced was often more difficult than it needed to be. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act may not have changed all that, if only because the fine print in most warranties is intimidating to even the most detail-oriented of consumers, but at least Magnuson-Moss required that the fine print be available for the consumer to read before purchasing the product. And it told manufacturers what had to be included in that warranty. OK, so the earth didn't shake when Magnuson-Moss found its way through Congress, but consumers finally had some kind of solid, legal ground to stand on when they bought a product -- especially an expensive product like, say, a car -- that kept breaking down or didn't do the things the manufacturer claimed it would do. Magnuson-Moss may not have been the first lemon law ever passed, but it's the basis for most lemon laws in the U.S. today. It protects everyone, and individual state laws extend that protection.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is for consumer products only and doesn't apply to products that cost less than $5. It doesn't require that a product come with a warranty -- if it doesn't you're pretty much on your own as far as Magnuson-Moss is concerned. It also doesn't apply to service warranties; however, if a product comes with a warranty, the legislation spells out how that warranty has to be written.
Lemon Laws By State:
Remember that there are laws designed to protect you and assure that your car either gets repaired, replaced or that you get a refund for it.
Every state in the U.S. has some kind of lemon law, but the specific provisions vary from state to state. In fact, your car may be considered a lemon in some states and not in others, so be warned in advance that your local laws may or may not offer you strong protection against all unscrupulous manufacturers and dealers. Let's look at a few examples here:
California lemon law:California has one of the strongest lemon laws in the country, theSong-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. It requires you to go to the manufacturer's local representative -- this is usually the dealer -- to get thecar repaired. If they can't fix the problem that's covered under the written warranty within a reasonable number of tries, they have to replace the vehicle or refund the purchase price minus the cost of any third-party parts you may have added on. However, the manufacturer can deduct from this refund an amount that covers how much use you've gotten out of the car before you first brought it in for repair. This amount is calculated by this formula:
Lots More Information:
Author's Note: How Lemon Laws Work
Nobody wants to be stuck with a lemon. I've been lucky in that I've never bought a new car that had any significant problems caused by manufacturer's defects. (Problems caused by my own stupidity are another issue.) Chances are you won't get stuck with a genuine lemon either. But if you do, remember that there are laws designed to protect you and assure that your car either gets repaired, replaced or that you get a refund for it. There's no reason to drive around in a car that doesn't work properly, especially if the car's problems are potentially life-threatening. In fact, if you believe that there are problems with your car that could lead to a fatal accident and the car is still under warranty, get it to a dealer immediately. You should be able to get a satisfactory repair or replacement on the first try. In most places, it's the law.