Car Law A to Z: L is for Lemon Law
Lemons are yellow fruits with pulp and seeds. The pulp is quite bitter but is capable of being made palatable and, in some cases, quite tasty. But lemons can also be vehicles purchased by consumers. There are legal provisions in place to address these lemons and there could be hope for making your sour new vehicle experience a bit more palatable in the end.
First things first. Does your vehicle fall under the lemon law of your particular state? The North Carolina lemon law statute (N.C.G.S. § 20-351. et seq.) only covers new vehicles. (Generally speaking, “lemon law” statutes only cover new vehicles although there are a handful of states that have lemon law statues which cover used vehicles.) NOTE: If you are the owner of a used vehicle (defined as a vehicle where you are not the first titled owner) click here for a chart that can help you assess what options, if any, you may have.
Next…does your vehicle’s problems qualify it as a “lemon“? Note, EVERY NEW VEHICLE WITH PROBLEMS IS NOT A LEMON! In North Carolina there are some standards which provide guidance as to whether or when your new vehicle has officially turned sour enough to be a lemon. If your new vehicle has been in for warranty-related repairs on at least 4 separate occasions 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.
So if your vehicle is a lemon what can you do about it and what rights and remedies do you have? North Carolina lemon law allows you to make a claim against the vehicle manufacturer (not the dealership or seller) to either provide you a substantial refund or an equivalent replacement vehicle. Further the law requires the manufacturer to pay your reasonable attorneys’ fees. These are powerful tools to help you recover at least some of what you have spent in time, money, and aggravation with your new yet problematic vehicle.
The lemon law procedure and analysis has a few more moving parts, details, and considerations than are listed here so your best bet is to contact a lemon law or consumer attorney for a consultation regarding your vehicle.