Note: The information contained in this Lemon Laws: Your Rights as a Consumer article is general information. It is legal advice. If you are looking for help, get in touch with one of our legal team.
When a new sporty European car maker released its latest model, my friend Joan was thrilled.
(It had been her dream car for years.) She loved the car so much that she ended up buying one of the first off the showroom floor.
However, just weeks after driving it off the lot…
One day she was driving down I-95 when all of a sudden the engine switched off, causing her to crawl to a stop on the side of the road. Baffled and annoyed by the nuisance of having to get towed and taking her new car into a service center, Joan wrote it off as a freak incident.
After all, it was under warranty.
When it happened just a few months later, and then yet again only a week after…
Joan realized that her dream car was a lemon.
It happens more than you might imagine.
Each year, over 150,000 cars are deemed “lemons” in the US alone. What is a “lemon” and what can you do if you have trouble with a new car you just bought? Enter, consumer protection “lemon laws.”
In this article, I’ll share what it means for a car to be a “lemon,” what consumer protection laws are there to “ade” you and what you can do if your new car goes “sour.” Ok enough with the lemon analogies!
Why are bad cars called lemons?
The idea of a lemon as something broken or bad can be traced back to the old British times where; if a person “handed you a lemon,” they were giving you something worthless.
This sense of disappointment from being given something worthless is similar to what a person feels when realizing their new car is defective.
Which brings us to…
What makes a car a lemon?
When someone calls a car a lemon, this means that it has severe defects or flaws (known as a nonconformities) which significantly undermine its use, value, and safety.
These are generally issues that cannot be fixed after multiple attempts or continue to cause problems even after repairs are made.
Keep in mind:
When talking about a “lemon,” these issues are not due to damage or the consumer’s poor care. The nonconformities that make a car a “lemon” are items inherent to the car.
That’s why they are the manufacturer’s responsibility as per outlined in the provided implied or written warranty.
What’s the Difference Between an Implied and a Written Warranty?
Think of it as the difference between a smile, and a person saying, “I’m happy.” The first implies that a person is happy, whereas the latter states the fact.
A written warranty, together with promises made throughout the sales process, are known as explicit (or expressed) warranties.
They are real promises made about the reliability and quality of the vehicle purchased.
Explicit warranties can take many forms beyond a written agreement or the conversation you have at the time of purchase. They also include statements in advertising and promotional materials, or things said in TV commercials.
If a TV commercial says that a car will get a minimum of least 30 miles per gallon, but when you buy it, the car never gets more than 20 mpg:
That’s a breach of an explicit warranty.
On the other hand…
An implicit warranty is an implied promise that the product will provide a certain function, maintain an amount of value, or produce a level of performance.
It’s not something that was said or promised specifically, yet it was still believed to be true from a common sense standpoint.
An example of an Implied warranty would be:
You bought an all-terrain vehicle that stalled every time you tried to go up a hill. That would be a breach of an implicit warranty. This is because of the common sense assumption that a vehicle named an “all-terrain” vehicle would be able to go up hills.
Implicit warranties can build strong cases against lemon products. Some legal experts go as far as to claim that implied warranties often offer more protection than express warranties.
There are three little words, often found in written (explicit) warranties, which null and void implied warranties:
SOLD AS IS
When you buy a car “sold as is,” you waive any implied warranty related rights.
By signing anything to say you are buying the car “Sold As Is,” you accept the vehicle in its current condition – no matter how sour that turns out to be.
Luckily, there are specific “Lemon laws” that protect consumers, and ensure vendors create and honor fair and honest written warranties:
State & Federal Lemon Laws
When you buy a new car, you are covered by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act at the Federal level, or your State’s Lemon laws, or both.
What’s the difference between Federal and State lemon laws?
The Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act focuses on protecting consumer’s rights by governing all warranty requirements and guidelines.
This national law places specific requirements and prohibitions on what vendors can put in their warranties.
Plus it allows legal representatives like us, to help enforce this consumer protection law.
Whereas State laws, such as the Florida Lemon Law Statute, are specialized to the auto industry, outlining specific rights and obligations based on protecting consumers when dealing with defective vehicle purchases.
The specifics of Lemon Laws will differ by State.
The most common differences are between each State’s Lemon Laws are:
- Whether the Lemon law covers used cars in addition to new cars
- The number of repair attempts to make before seeking legal recourse.
- The Statutory Warranty length (how long the law protects you after buying a vehicle)
- Whether vehicle leases are covered under the law
- Which vehicles are exempt (e. recreational vehicles, motorcycles, commercial trucks)
- Whether the manufacturer is given a final attempt at repairing the vehicle.
As our offices are located in South Florida, let’s look further at your specific rights under Florida Lemon Laws.
Your Lemon Law Rights in Florida
Don’t let a dealer or service center convince you otherwise…
If your new car has been out of service or has needed too many repairs, your State’s Lemon Law protects you and gives you the right to seek reimbursement.
Florida Lemon Laws, otherwise known as the “Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act,” give you specific rights and protections as a vehicle consumer.
Here are a few of your rights under Florida Lemon Laws:
THE LEMON LAW RIGHTS PERIOD
The Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act covers your car purchase until 24 months after you initially received the new vehicle.
No matter your warranty expiration, if you file a complaint within the first 24 months of receiving a “lemon,” you are covered under Florida law.
THE TWO SCENARIOS THAT DEEM YOUR CAR TO BE A LEMON
There are two scenarios where you can find seek legal recourse under Florida Lemon laws.
If you purchase a new vehicle, and within the lemon law period (24 months), you need to bring it to the service center a minimum of three times for the same issue…
…then you must write a letter to the manufacturer ( not the dealership) with a complaint.
At this point, the manufacturer has one more attempt to be able to fix the problem you are facing.
If they cannot resolve the issue, they must provide you with either:
- A refund
- A replacement vehicle
If your vehicle is out of service in an authorized repair shop or service center for 15 or more cumulative days within the first 24 months, you have the right to send the manufacturer a notification and seek resolution. Similarly to the first scenario, once the manufacturer has received your notification, they only have one more attempt at fixing the issue.
They still can’t fix the issue, or your car remains at the service/repair center for 30 days or more:
You could be entitled to a refund or a replacement vehicle.
However, some vehicles are exempt.
VEHICLES THE FLORIDA LEMON LAWS DO AND DON’T COVER
Here in Florida, Lemon Laws cover most new vehicles used for personal use, with a few exceptions.
Florida Lemon Laws Do Not cover:
- Trucks over 10,000 pounds in gross weight.
- Off-road vehicles
- Motorcycles and mopeds
- Vehicles used as living facilities or recreational vehicles (RVs)
Florida Lemon Laws also exclude vehicles purchased with the pure intent of resale.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT FROM FILING A LEMON LAW CLAIM
If you win your arbitration from a Lemon Law case, you can expect to receive either replacement vehicle or a purchase price refund from the manufacturer.
There are different factors to take into account when estimating how much you are entitled. Miles driven, the type of vehicle, rebates and the type of vehicle all impact the actual value of your final reimbursement.
Next, let’s look at how to estimate your refund in a Lemon Law arbitration case:
CALCULATING YOUR ESTIMATED REFUND OR REPLACEMENT.
Note: This is for estimation purposes only. It does not guarantee a refund or reimbursement. This is only a general guideline only which may and will not apply to every situation.
According to Florida Lemon Laws:
If your claim is successful, you are entitled to a refund of your vehicle’s purchase price, or, a replacement vehicle matching the value of your refund.
…Don’t expect to get every penny back that you paid to drive your car off the lot. There are various deductions to be made:
- Manufacturer rebates you received are deducted from the refund.
- Cash rewards are deducted.
- 3rd party loan costs are excluded.
- The consumer’s usage of the vehicle up to the date of the settlement or arbitration hearing (whichever is first).
+ Plus, if you opt to receive a replacement vehicle, you will need to cover the difference between the cost of the new vehicle and the value of your refund after deductions.
You receive $26,900 in a Lemon law settlement.
If you chose to receive a replacement of precisely the same model and year car that is $29,000, you would have to pay $29,000- $26,900 = $2,100. Even if the vehicle is “identical” to the one you are replacing.
CALCULATING YOUR USAGE OFFSET
According to Florida Lemon Law, the consumer’s usage offset is calculated using mileage.
Here’s the formula:
OFFSET = (PURCHASE PRICE1 X CONSUMER MILEAGE2) / 120,0003
- Minus cashback awards or manufacturer rebates.
2. Minus mileage on delivery and non-consumer attributable mileage.
3. 60,000 if the vehicle is an RV
Imagine you bought a new family car for $32,000, but you received rebates totaling $8,000. You then drove the car for a few months, completing 10,000 Miles traveled before finally filing for arbitration.
You could be entitled to:
$32,000 minus $8,000 (rebates) = $24,000.
Minus your offset, calculated as:
$24,000 multiplied by 10,000, equaling 240,000…
divided by 120,000, equals:
An offset of $2,000.
$24,000 – $2,000 = $22,000 as a refund or replacement value.
Note: If you traded in a vehicle to get the car you are claiming is a lemon, ask your lawyer about trade-in allowances.
OTHER PROTECTIONS APART FROM LEMON LAWS
Just because something might not be covered under Lemon Laws, it doesn’t mean you aren’t protected. Consumer Protection Law still protects you from things like deceitful advertising, hidden fees, etc.
Btw, you may like our other article 11 Times Big Brands Violated Consumer Protection Laws.
THE 3 STEPS LEMON LAW PROCESS
- Keep notes on everything!
Proof is the most valuable asset you have in any legal dispute.
Start collecting any information and physical proof you can of your car’s issues. From the first incident of it happening, right up to today.
- Receipts and repair orders
- Your purchase contract
- Warranty documents
- Notifications sent to the manufacturer
- The claim made with the manufacturer’s State-certified internal settlement system
- The vehicle’s bill of sale or purchase invoice
- Receipts for any purchases made in association with the car
- Receipts of all expenses incurred due to the nonconformity
- Summaries of experiences faced due to the nonconformity (like Joan’s story at the beginning). Include emotions, how long things took and any loss of personal or work opportunities due to the car issues.
Be aware: Any formal complaint or case to the New Vehicle Arbitration Board must be received no later than 60 days past the final date of your 24-month Lemon law rights period.
- CHECK IF THE MANUFACTURER HAS A DISPUTE SETTLEMENT SYSTEM.
Many vehicle manufacturers will have State-certified internal dispute settlement system. What this means it that they have approved processes already in place to handle “lemon” claims internally without the intervention of the courts.
If you as the consumer or the lessee of a vehicle were informed of this in writing at the time of the transaction, you must go through the steps outlined in the manufacturer’s internal system before seeking outside legal arbitration.
(If you’re not sure whether there is an internal dispute system in place or not, it can usually be found in your warranty book or owner’s manual. If there isn’t one, skip to step 3.)
If you are not satisfied 40 days after filing a claim with the manufacturer’ internal dispute system, you can elevate your complaint to the next step. This is where I usually come in.
- CONTACT A LEMON LAW ATTORNEY
If you are not happy with the manufacturer’s internal dispute system, or there was not one in place, the next step is to get in touch with a Lemon Law attorney, like ZPLLP.
A Lemon Law attorney will:
- Help you compile all the necessary information for your case
- Review your case to determine the most likely outcome (such as a refund or replacement)
- Notify the manufacturer of your claim to give them an opportunity to resolve the issue with you before it goes to court.
- Negotiate the best settlement options for you and provide counsel to you about your legal options throughout the claim.
- If a settlement is not reached, the lawyer will help to elevate your claim to a trial against the manufacturer. However, 99% of claims are settled before going to court.
Hiring a Lemon Law Lawyer can often cost nothing to you, either. According to most State Lemon Laws and the Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act:
If your claim is successful, the manufacturer is responsible for any legal costs in association with your Lemon Law claim.
I hope this has helped you to have a better grasp of what Lemon Laws are and your rights when faced with the situation of having bought a lemon.
If you have further questions or are in need of legal advice, get in touch.