Think Lemon Law Only Applies to New Cars? Think Again!

More states are adopting versions of California’s Lemon Law, ensuring consumers aren’t stuck footing the bill for a car with substantial defects. In most cases, this law covers drivers who purchased a new vehicle. That doesn’t always have to be the case, though.

Your car doesn’t have to be brand new for you to hire a lemon law attorney when defects arise. Under the law, drivers can seek compensation from manufacturers for used cars as well. Here’s everything you need to know about used cars and Lemon Law.

The Rules

To qualify for a lemon claim, your car needs to meet a certain set of criteria. First, it needs to be under the manufacturer’s warranty when you bought it. Second, the defect must be a substantial one. If the issue lessens the value of the car, poses safety risks, or impairs your ability to use the car.

The car is covered for 18 months or 18,000 miles, whichever happens to come first. You also need to try to have the car repaired. A minimum of four repairs are necessary for issues covered by the warranty, while two are required for those that pose a risk of injury or death. If your car is in the shop for 30 non-consecutive days, then that overrides the minimum number of repairs.

Used Car Considerations

When it comes to used cars, the main factor you need to consider is if the manufacturer’s warranty is still in effect. Keep in mind this only applies to the following states:

  • Connecticut
  • California
  • Massachesetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York

In court, it usually considered the buyer’s responsibility to know what condition a used car is in before they buy it. Visual inspections, test drives, and having a mechanic take a look all work to your advantage in avoiding a lemon scenario.

Since the car is used, both the buyer and seller know it isn’t in mint or perfect condition. That can complicate lemon claims, making it vital that you hire an attorney to aid the process. Most states require manufacturers to pay reasonable attorney fees as part of a lemon claim. You and your attorney can rely on a few key elements to win the case.

Accident History

A seller must provide you with a vehicle’s accident history. When looking through those documents, you should keep an eye out for previous collisions. Inspecting the car’s body and side panels can also indicate accidents, which may point to structural defects. Major accidents prior to purchase can help you prove the substantial defect requirement.

Tampered Odometer

Tampering takes place when a seller attempts to lower the mileage on the odometer in an attempt to make a used vehicle look more appealing. Aside from being absolutely illegal, it also hides potential defects or necessary repairs from the buyer. Lemon Law covers these instances, and you’ll be able to file criminal charges as well.

Major Breakdowns

While a dead battery or a transmission issue aren’t always covered by lemon laws, but surmounting problems beyond a reasonable threshold are. When those problems were caused by the previous owner, then you’re on your way to proving a lemon claim. You’ll still need the help of an attorney, though.

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