When your car is a Lemon

When Your “New” Car Is a Lemon

Since Alex came to the United States in 1992, he has always bought used cars. Recently, however, he decided to buy a NEW car. Alex and his family were all excited. Well, the excitement was unfortunately short lived. The engine in the car stopped working after one week only. When Alex brought the car back to the dealer, the dealer said he would fix it. Two weeks later, however, the engine was again not working right. When Alex brought the car back again, the dealer charged him for the additional repairs. This went on for a long time. In short, the car was never right, even though Alex and his family spent a ton of money (they did not have) trying to make it right. As you can imagine, the new car was a huge investment for Alex and his family, and the problems with the car caused a lot of financial stress on the family. The car was a piece of junk, or as most people say these days, it was a “lemon.”

Although there was no law specifically protecting people who bought cars that were lemons a few years back, we now have a law commonly referred to as the “Lemon Law.” The Lemon Law, which is more officially known as General Business Law §198-a, provides people with a legal remedy when they are sold a new or used car that turns out to be a lemon. The Lemon Law provides that when a car fails to conform with the terms of a written warranty during the first 18,000 miles or two years, whichever comes first, and the manufacturer or the authorized dealer cannot fix the car despite a reasonable number of attempts to fix it, the buyer is entitled to a full refund or a replacement car.

The Lemon Law covers both new and used cars that meet the following four conditions: (1) the car came with a manufacturer new car warranty; (2) the car was purchased, leased, or transferred within the first 18,000 miles or two years from the original date of delivery; (3) the car was either purchased in New York State or is currently registered in New York State; and (4) the car is primarily used for personal purposes, such as family and household errands and driving to and from work. Motor homes are also covered by the Lemon Law, but motorcycles and off-road vehicles are not.

If you feel that you have been sold a car that is a lemon, you should immediately report the problem to the manufacturer or the dealer. The Lemon Law requires that the manufacturer repair any defects covered by the warranty free of charge. If you have been charged for these warranty-type repairs, you should contact the Attorney General’s Office. If the dealer refuses to make the necessary repairs, you should notify the manufacturer in writing by mail. The Lemon Law requires that the dealer begin repairs within 20 days after the manufacturer receives this notice.

You are entitled to have an attorney represent you when making a Lemon Law claim against a manufacturer or dealer; however, the Lemon Law includes an arbitration program. Arbitration is an informal hearing that is much less expensive and time consuming than hiring a lawyer and going to court. If you choose the arbitration route, you can generally expect a decision within 10 days of the hearing. For more information on the arbitration program, go to

http://www.ag.ny.gov/bureaus/consumer_frauds/lemon_law.html. Or you can call to the Consumer Hotline 1-800-771-7755.

You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about the Lemon Law. Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in connection with a claim under the Lemon Law. Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar cases may have different outcomes.

If you have any questions or concerns about any legal issue, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at joseperez@joseperezyourlawyer.com. The Law Office of Jose Perez is located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York 13202. Please look for my next article in the August edition.

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