Used Cars Lemon Law: Consumer Protection

Used Cars Lemon Law

Once upon a time, in the land of Lemon Grove in far away California there was a lady called Rosemary Shahan. In the year of 1979 this teacher of poetry took her car to her local dealership to get it repaired and was promised a job that was speedy and efficient. Three months later, Rosemary was still waiting for her car to be fixed and delivered back to them. Perhaps the garage thought that the little lady was a pushover. But a steel backbone had she, and surely did she spend five months standing outside the garage picketing it. The mechanics did yell obscenities at her, but still she started a groundswell of ire amongst consumers and therefore the citizen movement was formed for lemon laws.

This is actually a true story. Shahan was made the head of CARS – the Consumers for Autoreliability and Safety. California and Connecticut became the first states to pass statutes for the lemon law in 1982. Every state now has some form of lemon law which provides relief for the unfortunate consumers that find their cars spend more time up in the air on a lift than being driven on the open road.

The effects of this has been striking. The Center for Auto Safety found in 1975 that over 1 million consumers bought a vehicular catastrophe and couldn't get a replacement for it without launching a massive fight where the odds were heavily stacked against them. Nowadays, this still happens, but to 100,000 people out of the 17 million who buy cars.

One of the reasons for this is that since about 1993 all of the states passed lemon laws requiring manufacturers to provide consumers with a replacement or a refund should they have provided a defective vehicle. A lemon is one that has to go back to the shop for four times or more with the same problem. A lemon could also be a car that has been in for a service for 30 days during the first 12 months or 12000 miles.

What constitutes a lemon has to be carefully defined. It is not about funny noises coming from the car, and its not about faulty cupholders, it needs to be a substantial problem that affects value, safety or reliability.

Whilst the lemon law applies mostly for new cars, lemons can be found on used car lots. This is why consumers want a lemon database. Manufacturers have been known to buy back their lemons and release them again in a different state. Consumers have asked at the very least for a label to be put on the car that identifies it as a lemon law buyback. Some good research will protect you.

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