Nearly everyone has a story about the little car that couldn’t. Merriam-Webster defines a lemon as “ …an automobile that is unsatisfactory or defective.” Whatever one chooses to call it, there’s no denying that such a car is a headache. Common problems that a lemon has can vary, from broken knobs to faulty collision repairs.
States everywhere are joining the fight with anti-lemon laws that prevent consumers from being taken for a ride, and many states apply these laws to both new and used cars. All 50 states have some type of Lemon Law, which is modeled after the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act. This act states that all consumer items sold with a warranty must state the terms of the warranty in easily understood language.
While owning a lemon might be frustrating, it can also be dangerous, causing accidents and distractions alike. What do you do if you find yourself with a junk mobile? Is there a way to check and ensure you don’t wind up getting swindled?
When Life Gives You Lemons… Get Legal
If your recent car purchase has turned out to be a problematic money pit, you do have a legal recourse. This isn’t just limited to new cars either. Many states are now expanding their lemon laws to also cover used cars. If you’re in the market for a car and you want to make sure you don’t get stuck with a junk mobile, there are some ways to investigate the cars you like before you even drive off the lot with them.
By making the internet your best friend, you can uncover all sorts of information, particularly about used cars. Ideally, check out the car manufacturer’s websites for up-to-date information about current and previous car models. Other sites offer extensive reports relating to a car’s damages or accidents, as well as if the car was used as a rental before. By going in with the most knowledge possible, you’ll not only avoid the dreaded lemons but you’ll also be able to negotiate a better deal.
1) Check the car’s VIN number online.
Before you even think about plunking down your hard-earned cash for a car, be sure to check the car’s history. One such online method uses Carfax to find the odometer history of the vehicle identification number (VIN). Though it may cost some money, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into before you even leave the lot. These reports can let you know if the car was in any accidents or if it has a lien on it before it’s too late. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller or dealer to confirm the facts you find. If anything sounds fishy, walk away from the deal immediately.
2) Keep a history of every repair.
When you first get a new or a used car, things can go wrong. Be sure to keep a record of every repair, oil change or anything else that your automobile requires. Collect all receipts, repair estimates and store them in a safe place. Better yet, scan all paperwork and save to a remote hard drive. Keeping a record can show a pattern of a car that is faulty, and help to protect yourself under Consumer Rights laws. This can also be helpful should you wish to go the legal route and pursue the seller with a lawyer.
3) Record everything, no matter how little it might seem.
Does your car tend to break down regularly? Did you end up parked in the middle of an intersection during rush hour? Keep a notebook and a pen in your car so you can start recording these incidents. Be sure to get the date, time of day and any other details you can. Ultimately, you want to establish a pattern your car is taking to show that it’s not up to par.
4) Get a full report if there’s an accident.
It’s no joke — faulty cars can easily put you in the path of an accident. A car that isn’t working correctly can be dangerous. If you have been in an accident and suspect that there’s an issue with your car, make a note of it and contact an accident lawyer. For example, if you happen to be driving your lemon in Dallas when you get your fender-bender, a Dallas auto accident attorney will be able to help you establish what the problem is and who should be held responsible.
It’s often said that when life gives you lemons you should make lemonade. However, when that lemon is actually your car, it means something else entirely. Do not take this matter lightly! Make a point of recording repairs and incidents so you can establish a pattern should you need to go the legal route. Every bit of information helps in the long run.