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It is said that as soon as you drive a new car off of a dealer's lot that it begins to depreciate in value. Accordingly, many people prefer to purchase used cars. Any car that has had a previous owner is defined as a used car. Some used cars have been driven fewer than 10,000 miles and others already have well over 100,000 miles on the odometer. It can be difficult for consumers to know the condition that a used car is in and there can be hidden defects that are hard for a buyer to see. Many used cars do not come with any manufacturer or dealer warranties. So, what happens if the used car that you buy turns out to be defective?
All fifty states have what are termed "lemon laws." While the details of the lemon laws vary from state to state, the premise is the same. Lemon laws provide consumers with protection when they buy a car that appeared to be in good working order (or sweet as a lemon appears) and the car is in fact in poor condition (or sour as a lemon).
Consumers are also protected by the federal Lemon Law, also known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
Each state has its own definition of when a car becomes a lemon. You likely have a lemon if the car has a defect that substantially impacts its use. If the same problem has been attempted to be fixed a number of times by a qualified auto mechanic and the problem keeps reappearing then you likely have a lemon. If you buy a used care that has a rolled back odometer, a prior history of problems that were known to the seller and not disclosed to the buyer, a car that was previously flooded, or a car that was stolen, stripped and rebuilt then you likely have a lemon.
The various state lemon laws require that you give the manufacturer or seller the chance to remedy the problem before you make a claim under the Lemon Law. In order to make a claim you should contact the seller of the used car and ask the seller to fix the problem. It is important to keep detailed and accurate documentation of all of your contacts with the seller and of all repairs made on the vehicle so that you have that information should you need to proceed with a lemon law claim.
Most state lemon laws and the federal lemon law allow for consumers to recover damages in a legal action if the defect cannot be fixed after a reasonable number of attempts. Pursuant to the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and approximately half the state lemon laws, you can recover attorney fees if you are successful in your claim.
A used car is a big investment even if you don't spend a lot of money on the purchase. You count on it to perform safely and reliably. Therefore, the federal government and the governments of all 50 states have enacted lemon laws to protect the consumers from dangerously defective used cars.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified lemon lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local lemon attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.