A Lesson on Lemons
By Frank G. Adams
At some point, most of us will purchase or lease a new car. When we do, it is not a decision undertaken lightly. Cars cost a lot of money. Along with representing a person’s personality and providing a sense of independence and freedom, they also represent a substantial financial outlay over several years. Therefore, we all want to make sure we get a vehicle that is worth that commitment. As part of the protection the law offers to consumers, our state, sometime ago, enacted the Pennsylvania Automobile Lemon Law. It helps to be reminded now and then that those protections are out there for your benefit.
Most of us have heard of the Lemon Law, but what does it do? The Lemon Law applies to purchases or leases of new, not used, automobiles. It does not apply to motorcycles, motor homes or off road vehicles, though other laws may provide some protection for those purchases. Also, the Lemon Law only applies to vehicles that are to be used primarily for personal, family or household uses. What it does is require the car manufacturer to repair or correct any defect that substantially impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle which occurs within the first year, first 12,000 miles or during the term of the manufacturer’s warranty, whichever occurs first.
If the dealer fails to correct that problem after a reasonable number of attempts, it must either replace the car with one of equal value or accept return of the car and refund the purchase price, minus 10 cents per mile driven or 10% of the purchase price, whichever is less. A “reasonable number of attempts” means three tries at fixing the same problem. The Act can also be invoked if the car is out of service because of the problem for a total of 30 or more days; it does not have to be 30 days in a row.
Before you can actually file a lawsuit under the Lemon Law, you must go through an informal dispute settlement procedure if the manufacturer has established one. Most, if not all, manufacturers have such a procedure. It is set up under regulations from the Federal Trade Commission and is designed to provide a fair and reasonable method to resolve your dispute. If you do not agree with the result of that informal procedure, a lawsuit is the next step.
When you purchase or lease a new car, the dealer is required to provide you with a written explanation of your rights under the Lemon Law. Dealers are generally aware of their obligations under the Lemon Law. However, they want your experience in purchasing a new car to be a good one so they may not dwell on the Lemon Law notice. Nevertheless, if you think you got a lemon it certainly does not hurt to read through the statement provided by the dealer as a starting point to know what options you may have. Your attorney can provide you with further assistance and explanation of those rights if the need arises.
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