Consumer Watch: Is your car a lemon? Here's how the law may be able to protect you

Consumer Watch: Is your car a lemon? Here's how the law may be able to protect you

April 7th, 2019 by Ellen Phillips in Business Around the Region

I bought a new 2018 car last fall and have had nothing but problems ever since. Surely these repair issues aren't normal and I feel sure this vehicle falls under the Lemon Law. Can you advise me of what the LL constitutes with regards to my purchase? – Andy Auto

Dear Mr. Auto: Lemon laws vary from state-to-state and protect the buyer from purchasing a new car that's either defective or will only work for a short time before dying completely. (Used cars also fall under this law but, for our purposes today, we'll concentrate on newbies.) When confronted with buying a lemon, don't automatically jump towards an attorney when you have options available for your own smarts to resolve the issue. (Hence, the term Lemon LAW.) When a person is stuck with a lemon, it may cause an accident or lead to injury. Just think of these potential scenarios: a defect could set the car on fire, lock the brakes or lock the steering wheel so that the individual behind the wheel is unable to swerve out of oncoming traffic; burst tires, malfunctions in the electrical system or even deploy airbags when there is no reason to do so. Not only does the car become a liability but, also, a lawsuit may be on the horizon. Therefore, it's imperative the owner proves his or her vehicle is a lemon and the dealership is to blame. Let's take a look at the Lemon Laws in our tri-state area.

Ellen Phillips

Ellen Phillips

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Alabama: Your car may qualify as a lemon if: it has been 24 months or less since date of delivery; has 24,000 miles or less; has had three or more attempts to repair the issue by the manufacturer, a manufacturer's agent or an authorized dealer for the same defect; has been out of service for at least 30 days and in the possession of the manufacturer, a manufacturer's agent, or an authorized dealer.

If your car qualifies as a lemon and the circumstances meet the Alabama lemon law criteria, the manufacturer of your car must either replace your defective vehicle with a comparable new car OR refund the full contract price including any additional charges, sales tax; title and registration fees, plus any other finance charges you may have accumulated.

Dealers are not considered at fault for lemon cars. Manufacturers must bear the blame for your vehicle troubles. (For more information as to file a Lemon Law complaint, go to DMV.org/al-alabama/automotive-law/lemon-law.php.)

Georgia: Only new vehicles are covered under the lemon law, and they must still be in the original owner's possession. This also applies to leased vehicles. If the car has changed ownership, it is no longer eligible for protection under the lemon law. Additionally, the vehicle must have a defect that makes the car unsafe to drive, lowers the resale value of the car, and/or causes malfunctions to the vehicle's normal uses.

If your vehicle is new and has a qualifying defect, you are covered by the lemon law rights for up to two years after your purchase or up to 24,000 miles, whichever comes sooner. It's necessary to allow the manufacturer or its authorized dealer a reasonable number of attempts to fix your vehicles defect (defined as either three attempts for most issues, one attempt for defects that could cause serious injury or death OR after being out of service for at least thirty days. To read further about Georgia's complaint process and how to receive recompense, search DMV.org/ga-georgia/automotive-law/lemon-law.php.

Tennessee: State law mandates a "lemon" as a motor vehicle that falls into each of these categories: sold or leased after January 1, 1987; has a problem that impairs safe use of the vehicle, or reduces resale market value, and can't be repaired by the dealer or manufacturer after four attempts, or is unable to be used for a cumulative period of thirty days or more while under warranty.

So when is the expiration for filing a claim? File within six months following the later of 1) expiration of the express warranty term or 2) one year following original delivery to a consumer. Eligible vehicles include passenger motor vehicles and motorcycles sold in Tennessee and subject to registration and title in Tennessee (or any other state for that matter). On the other hand, this Law excludes motor homes used as a dwelling place, living abode or sleeping place; garden tractors; recreational vehicles; or off-road vehicles. The manufacturer, through the dealership, has a duty to repair any nonconformities to the warranty or, otherwise, unsafe vehicular issues. Actually, if the same hindrance has been worked on at least three times without remedy, or if the vehicle is out of service for more than thirty days, it is subject to the terms of Tennessee Lemon Law. To check out more info, go to DMV.org/tn-tennessee/automotive-law/lemon-law.php.

Tax Tip: If any of us has a license plate that advocates a charitable cause, that additional fee is allowable by Uncle Sam on our 2018 tax returns.

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.


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