Make Lemonade? What to Do When You Buy a Lemon Car

People say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But when you buy a car that turns out to be a lemon, it’s tough to remain optimistic. But not all lousy cars automatically qualify as a lemon. And this term is used loosely to describe both new and used vehicles. Find out how to protect yourself from owning a lemon car and how to recoup your losses if you do.


The Lemon Law

Dubbing a car a “lemon” isn’t just a cute catchphrase. There’s actually a law that protects consumers who purchase an unsafe vehicle unknowingly. Lemon laws vary from state to state but the basics are the same. Under most laws, a vehicle must meet two requirements to be considered a lemon:

1.       Experience the same, significant defect (covered under warranty) within a certain time of purchase.

2.       Continue to experience the same defect after several attempts to repair it.

Most lemon laws only apply to new vehicles, but there are some exceptions. If a used car has less than 24,000 miles on its odometer and was purchased within two years of original delivery to the dealership, it may qualify as a lemon. In addition, if the customer receives an express written warranty from the car dealer, the lemon law may apply depending on the state in which the vehicle purchased.


Protecting Yourself Against a Lemon Car

Prevention is key to avoid falling victim to buying a lemon. Don’t make a hasty decision about something as important as buying a new car.


Do Your Research

As the buyer, it’s your job to research the type of car you’re buying. There are a few ways to go about this. Once you decide on the make and model of the car you want, start reading reviews and consumer reports. You won’t be the first person to buy this exact car, and unhappy buyers are often more than willing to offer their horror stories online. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists all recalls reported for specific vehicles. Check these reports to see if the car has had a recent recall. If so, the issue should be fixed before you close the deal. Did you know that the window sticker on all vehicles tells you a lot more than just the price? The Federal Trade Commission requires dealerships to post the Buyer’s Guide on all vehicles for sale. The Buyer’s Guide lists all kinds of valuable information for buyers. Here you’ll find if the vehicle is being sold “as is”, what the warranty policy is, and what percentage of repair costs the dealership is obligated to pay. Take the time to read the sticker and save yourself aggravation down the road.


Inspect the Car

This is a basic rule for buying any car, new or used. While it may seem tedious, take plenty of time to inspect every inch of the vehicle. Many buyers are fooled into thinking a new car is in perfect condition. This isn’t always the case. Walk around the exterior of the vehicle and check the paint, tailpipe, and tires. Check for chipped paint or mismatched parts. This is a sure sign the vehicle has been in an accident or received recent repairs. Take a minute to look under the hood and inspect all hoses and wires. The tires should have minimal wear and tear across the width of the tire. If there’s more wear at one part of the tire (center or sides), it means the tire was either over or under inflated. Inspecting the shell of the car is important, but don’t forget to take a look inside. Check any obvious wear on the pedals, seat belts, or fabric. These could be signs that the vehicle was either in an accident or not properly maintained.


Take It for a Test Drive

Giving the car a once over with your eyes isn’t enough to spot a lemon. The best way to test a vehicle’s safety is by taking it for a drive. Take notice of how the brakes and gas feel. Does the engine make any loud or strange noises? Do the signals, windshield wipers, and other mechanics work properly? Whenever possible, take the vehicle on a nearby highway or road where you can get it up to speed. A quick spin around the block can easily hide major issues with how the car runs.


Have a Backup Plan

Even the most diligent car buyers have sometimes been stuck with a lemon car. The best way to protect yourself is to invest in a protection plan. Consumers can pay as little as 50 cents a day to protect the purchase of a new vehicle. If the deal goes sour, the protection plan can help recoup some of your losses.


Document All Interactions

The proof is in the documentation. Because one of the stipulations of a lemon car is that the dealership tries to repair the issue several times, it’s important to keep detailed records. Keep a journal where you document the date and time you experienced the issue. More importantly, document all interactions with the dealership. Take note of the dates and times you called to report a problem and the name of the person you spoke to. If repairs are performed, save all receipts and dates. The more information you have, the better when it comes to qualifying for the lemon law.


Avoid a Sour Deal

Car dealerships and salesman can sometimes be less than forthright. While they may not lie to customers, they aren’t always forthcoming in every case. As a consumer, it’s wise to protect yourself against buying a lemon car. Doing your research and performing a careful inspection beforehand can save you time, money, and aggravation. Lemon Proof is a cost-effective way to protect yourself against the unknown. Contact us today for more information so you can buy your next car without worry.