By: Brett Shainfeld

When you buy a new car, you expect it to have a few things: that wonderful new car smell, a beautiful shine to the outside, and fully and completely working parts. But sometimes, instead of driving home a beautiful new car, you get stuck with a dud.

Before you know it, things aren’t working quite as they should be. And whether it’s the vehicle is shaking violently, warning lights such as the check engine light illuminating, or the transmission not shifting properly, you know something isn’t right. While a new car should be perfect, it should not be a nightmare.

Ideally, the dealership or car manufacturer would step in and help set things right, either by repairing the car or replacing it with one that doesn’t have the same kinds of problems. Unfortunately, the manufacturer cannot always be counted on to remedy the situation.

That’s where your protection under the new car lemon law comes into play.

New Car Lemon Law: What Is It?

If your new car isn’t the shiny, perfect vehicle you believed you purchased, the lemon law could offer you protection and help you get your money back. The Federal new car lemon law (also known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act) provides some layer of protection. However, each state has its own new car lemon law, for example, California’s lemon law is called the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, which exists in order to provide protections to consumers who have purchased a defective good. Most often, these laws apply to vehicles, but certain appliances and other things can also be covered: cars, boats, planes, recreational vehicles, motorcycles, and more. If you can get around in it, chances are, it’s covered.

The lemon law states that a vehicle must have be subject to multiple repairs for the same issue or problem that begins causing problems while under the manufacturer’s warranty. Each state’s new lemon law outlines a lemon law presumption period, for example, California’s presumption is the first 18 months or 18,000 miles, whichever you reach first.

There are parts of the lemon law that change depending on where you live. These include the time limit (whether coverage extends for 12 months or 24, or for 12,000 miles or 18,000), the types of defects that are covered (including brakes and steering), and how many repair attempts you have to make before you’re entitled to compensation under the law (usually four or more). The exact wording of lemon laws vary from state to state, but the point is the same: to protect consumers from being taken advantage of when they buy a defective car that never should have been driven off the lot.

If your vehicle meets the required qualifications for protection under the new car lemon law, the manufacturer of your car is could be required to compensate you for your purchase. They can do this by either buying the car back from you, replacing the car, or offering you a cash settlement. And if they don’t cooperate (which is often the case) then you’re entitled to pursue a lawsuit to get the money you deserve.

Having Problems with Your New Car?

There’s nothing worse than having problems with a new car. As your primary mode of transportation, you depend on your car to get you where you need to go — to take your children to school safely, to visit your parents in another state, to carry your friends on a cross-country roadtrip. And when your car doesn’t work as it should, it can be a source of stress, worry, and a financial burden.

We often expect old cars to run into issues as they age. After so many thousands of miles, it’s only normal for parts to fail and need replacing. But when you buy a new car, you assume you’ll enjoy a number of years with very few repairs, if any. So when you start having problems with your new car, frustrations can quickly skyrocket.

But your car problems don’t necessarily mean you brought home a lemon. If the car only has minor issues that are more of an inconvenience than a safety risk, then it may not be considered a lemon, however, a qualified lemon law attorney can help make the determination as to what are trivial problems versus something that may be more serious and qualify as a lemon. However, if your car is under warranty, and you are suffering from issues with the engine, brakes, transmission, or other major components of the vehicle, then you just might have a lemon on your hands.

In order to really qualify as a lemon vehicle, the problems with your new car, your car needs to have multiple repair attempts, or your car will have to have been in the shop for repairs for an extended period of time. If this sounds like your situation, don’t worry, there is a light at the end of the car repair tunnel.

My New Car is a Lemon: What Happens Next?

If you know your car is a lemon, and it meets your state’s lemon law requirements, it’s time to take action. Once you qualify for protection under the lemon law, and are entitled to either a refund or a replacement car.

If you are choosing to handle your lemon law claim without an attorney, which is allowed by not advised, the first step is to notify the manufacturer of the car to let them know that your vehicle has a defect. The manufacturer will be the brand of car you have, such as a General Motors, Nissan, Fiat, Chrysler Automobiles, etc. If you reach out to the car company, and they won’t work with you in order to repair or replace your vehicle, then you definitely need to contact a qualified lemon law attorney. As noted, it is recommended to contact a lemon law attorney from the start to ensure you are receiving everything you are entitled to under your state’s lemon law.

How the Lemon Law Can Help You

You should not have to settle for a car that doesn’t work properly. The new car lemon law can help you get your money back, or get a car that is safe to drive and works as it should. And if the car manufacturer won’t cooperate, your lemon lawyer can guide you through that process and filing a lemon law lawsuit, if necessary.

Like most cases, lemon law claims are typically handled outside of court on a pre-litigation process. One tool most states have to help is a lemon law arbitration. Before beginning a lemon law arbitration claim, it is best to discuss the risks of a lemon law arbitration with a lemon law lawyer. During this non-judicial process, either a panel or a single arbiter will review all the evidence on both sides (yours and the car manufacturer’s) and come to a decision as to whether your car qualifies as a lemon vehicle. They can rule that either the manufacturer has to buy the car back from you (minus whatever reasonable amount you’ve already gotten out of the vehicle while it’s been in your possession), replace the defective car with a new one, or offer you a cash settlement (which you can then use to buy another car of your choice). The arbitration may not require the payment of attorneys fees and costs.

The proceedings are typically binding for the manufacturer — meaning they have to take whatever decision is handed down — but as a consumer, you have the option to move forward with a lemon law lawsuit. So if you aren’t happy with the outcome, you do have the option to sue the manufacturer in court in the hopes of reaching a different outcome. The more prepared you are with evidence in the form of receipts and documentation, the more likely you are to reach a positive outcome.

Get the Lemon Law Help You Need

A great lemon law attorney — like the ones at Shainfeld Law — will have years of experience dealing with new car lemon law cases. They’ll know all the ins and outs of your state’s specific lemon law, and how to use it to your advantage in getting the money you deserve.

If your car is a lemon and you need help getting compensation from the car’s manufacturer, give us a call at Shainfeld Law. We’ll give you a free consultation to determine if you have a case and the best way to proceed so you can get your hard earned money back. We are experts at California lemon law, and we won’t rest until you have a car you can trust to get you home safely.