“Lemon law” seems to be a generic term for the body of law relating to mechanic problems and defects relating to vehicles. However, in its strictest sense, the term “lemon law” only applies to brand new vehicles. The North Carolina lemon law statute (N.C.G.S. § 20-351. et seq.) only covers new vehicles. This means you must be the first registered owner of the vehicle in question. North Carolina’s lemon law statute can be a bit difficult to decipher and determine how to
apply. Generally speaking, North Carolina law states if your new vehicle has been in for warranty-related repairs on at least 4 separate occasions for the same issue/defect or for at least 20 business days in any 12-month warranty period, your vehicle is deemed a lemon. The problems with your vehicle must be material or major—no cosmetic defects or things that do not seriously affect the operation of your vehicle—and the problems must begin within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles of your ownership of the vehicle.
The frustrated vehicle owner who has met the required number of service attempts or days without use of the vehicle may be able to obtain either a refund or a replacement vehicle. Along the way there is documentation to be obtained/retained and notices required to be provided and negotiation will likely come into play. Possibly even arbitration. But if all that fails and the vehicle owner has a legitimate case, litigation (a/k/a filing a lawsuit) would be required.
Now let’s chat for a minute regarding the situation with used vehicles in North Carolina. We already established that they do not qualify for protection under the lemon law statute. There are, however, some claims potentially available to the aggrieved vehicle owner. First and foremost, if the seller of the vehicle provided a warranty this is a first line of defense. Let us be clear—all warranties are not warranties. Often when people purchase vehicles they pay additional money for a product that dealers often refer to as “an extended warranty” or “third party warranty”. These products are not warranties in the strict legal sense of the word. These products are more appropriately called vehicle service contracts because they look and work more like insurance policies. The cost of vehicle service contracts is usually included in the vehicle payments made by the consumer. With a vehicle service contract the vehicle owner may or may not have to take the vehicle back to the selling dealer for mechanical problems or defects—depends on the terms of the contract. And with vehicle service contracts the vehicle owner often has to pay a deductible each time the vehicle goes in for repairs. One of the major complaints about vehicle service contracts is that they are riddled with exceptions and exclusions such that some repairs or problems are not even covered. This leaves the vehicle owner frustrated with the vehicle and their vehicle service contract. Now back to our discussion of true warranties….
Preferably the warranty from the seller is in writing because oral warranties are always hard to prove and may not be sufficient enough to merit spending the time and money to enforce. If the seller provides a written warranty this is called an express warranty. An express warranty is merely a promise to pay for or otherwise be responsible for issues that may arise with certain components of a vehicle. Most express warranties have a duration or time limitation after which they expire. It is important that a used vehicle owner notify the seller of any vehicle problems as soon as possible after they occur.
When a seller provides an express written warranty it automatically means the used vehicle owner also has the benefit of implied warranty protection. Implied warranties cannot be excluded—but can be limited—-if you are provided a warranty or a vehicle service contract. Implied warranties can only be excluded if the vehicle is sold “as is” with no warranty AND a clear written disclaimer of implied warranties is provided to the customer at the time of the transaction. The primary purpose of the Buyer’s Guide sticker found in the windows of many vehicles is to make clear if the seller is offering a warranty on the vehicle.
There are two implied warranties—the warranty of merchantability and the warranty of fitness for particular purpose. The warranty of merchantability essentially says that the used vehicle will do what vehicles are supposed to do—operate safely on the roads and highways—but this is not an absolute guarantee that the vehicle will experience no problems whatsoever. The implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is a promise a seller makes when a customer specifically relies on the seller’s advice that the vehicle can be used for some specific purpose—ex: a person needing a truck with certain hauling power or payload capacity. The implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is established in rare situations so the implied warranty of merchantability, which is much broader in scope and far more commonly created, is more advantageous to the consumer.
When the used vehicle owner has a written warranty and the vehicle has exhibited problems, the owner has a duty to present the problems to the seller’s attention and offer the vehicle to the seller for the necessary repairs. One key is documentation: obtaining and keeping copies of all repair estimates and receipts, sending written notice to the seller of the vehicle problems. Sometimes there may be a need to send a written demand to the seller to repair the vehicle. The handling of used vehicle issues can be a bit murky to navigate as the relevant principles are a combination of warranty law, contract law, and various federal and state consumer statutes. So used vehicle owners who are frustrated with their vehicles definitely benefit from consulting an experienced consumer lawyer.
This article is a very broad overview and there is far too much information to summarize here or to provide a “how to guide” for consumers. Know that there tools in place to help owners of true lemons to recover damages and even used vehicle owners may have options for recovery. Trying to save money and self-manage your vehicle problem/defect case will likely result in more frustration and more money spent in the long run. Now that’s pretty sour. Trust me when I say that if you or someone you know is having a problem with a vehicle it really does pay to consult with an experienced lemon law or consumer law attorney.
Good day my friend. It’s back. The annual NC Bar Association service project and community outreach event that has lawyers manning phones at locations across North Carolina to take calls and questions. And it is all free!
The NC Bar Association’s “4ALL Statewide Service Day” will take place on Friday, March 3, at call centers in Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Greenville, Raleigh and Wilmington. On that day, North Carolinians will be able to talk to an NC lawyer by phone for free! Attorney volunteers from the North Carolina Bar Association will take calls from members of the public with law-related questions. Last year, more than 10,000 North Carolinians called in and talked to a volunteer lawyer at no charge. This is the Bar Association’s 10th year in a row of providing this service to people all across North Carolina.
Anyone in N.C. can call one of the toll-free numbers between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m (the call center in Wilmington will be available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) Callers will not be asked for their name or any contact information– they can just ask their questions! Here is a list of phone numbers across North Carolina:
Asheville | 1.800.289.0013
Charlotte | 1.866.616.4255
Fayetteville | 910.884.3907
Greensboro | 1.855.899.9037
Greenville | 1.888.616.0614
Raleigh | 919.744.3861
Wilmington | 910.386.5540
If the number for your area is busy that day, try one of the other above-listed phone numbers. Areas of practice will include criminal law, real estate, wills and probate, powers of attorney, landlord-tenant, immigration, child custody and support, divorce, business, debt collection and more.
Please spread the word to your family, friends, colleagues, and social networks. Some may have legal questions and want to take advantage of this opportunity to talk to a North Carolina lawyer at no charge. Again, it’s this Friday, March 3, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thanks for helping me spread the word! Best wishes and thanks for your support.
Follow the link: http://carconsumers.org/usedcarbuyingtips.htm. If you have been burned on a used vehicle you have purchased contact me so we can discuss. Best wishes and do share this blog post.
Here is another English-language fotonovela. This one discusses spot delivery a/k/a yo-yo “sales” regarding vehicles. If you or
Here is a English-language fotonovela (looks like a comic book) on harassing debt collections. Quick read (and share) for you. If you or someone is in need of assistance regarding unfair or harassing debt collection reach out to me or another experienced consumer lawyer in the area. Best wishes to you..
In 2017 I want to focus more of my practice on lemon law cases. “Lemon law” seems to be a generic term for the body of law relating to mechanic problems and defects relating to vehicles. However, in its strictest sense, the term “lemon law” only applies to brand new
vehicles. North Carolina, like other states, has a state lemon law statute and it can be a bit difficult to decipher and determine how to apply. An oversimplification of the North Carolina lemon law statute is that a new vehicle purchaser may be able to obtain either a refund or a replacement vehicle if the purchaser’s vehicle has been out of service for a certain amount of time OR with the dealer for a certain number of unsuccessful repair attempts for the same defect. There is documentation to be obtained/retained and notices required to be provided and negotiation will likely come into play. Possibly even arbitration.
All of this is too much to summarize here or to provide a “how to guide” for consumers. Trust me when I say that if you or someone you know is having a problem with a new vehicle it really does pay to consult with an experienced lemon law/consumer attorney. It is possible that you will not pay a fee unless and until your lemon claim is resolved. Thanks for a few moments of your time and I will await your call/email if the need should arise. And, as always, please do share this post with your family, friends, and social networks.
Good day. Most of us have to buy some product or good on time a/k/a making payments. Whether it be a home or a vehicle or some lesser expensive item, there are state and federal laws that govern the payment agreement from the origination of the loan until the loan is paid in full. Too few people read and meaningfully understand their loan agreements before signing them. Some of the more frustrating conversations I have with potential clients relate to loan agreements and consumer credit issues where something has been missed or some key deadline has lapsed.
The North Carolina Bar Association has free pamphlets on several legal matters including buying on time. Click here for the free PDF and share it with others. And if you or someone you know is having problems with their loan agreement please contact me or another experienced consumer law attorney for a consultation and potential help.
- Read this free brochure from the North Carolina Bar Association
- Read this brief article on things to do and things not to do
- Do NOT contact the at-fault party’s insurance company without first consulting a lawyer
- Consult a lawyer for a consultation to discuss the accident, your injuries and damages, and your best course of action (NOTE: I have been practicing law for over 20 years including personal injury and wrongful death cases)
Happy new year to you! This is the first time I have spoken to you since the calendar page turned to 2017. Here’s hoping this is a great
year of abundance and good things for you and yours.
One of the most common phone calls and email inquiries I receive is “my used vehicle is a problem…do I have a case?” Hmm…. Continue reading