Federal Lemon Laws
One of the most cherished experiences for many Americans is buying a car. Buying a car is a symbol of freedom and, depending on the make and model of the car, is also a status symbol. When you buy a new car, you expect it to run well, with few or no issues. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
When you buy a car that’s under warranty, and it doesn’t perform like it should no matter how many repairs are made, you are likely covered under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a.k.a. the “Federal Lemon Law.”
This act covers any new product that’s priced over $25, has a warranty and has manufacturing defects that affect its performance, safety or value in a way that make the product virtually unusable. But while the law can apply to anything from blenders to TVs, the term “lemon” is most often used to describe cars.
So what can you do if you if you end up buying a lemon? You do have options, provided by both Georgia state and federal lemon laws.
First, Federal Lemon Laws
There are federal lemon laws to protect consumers. This statute, called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, was enacted in 1975. One of the main goals of this law is to ensure consumers are able to get full warranty information about the products they buy, and therefore know what to expect if the product is defective.
Federal Lemon Laws cover two types of warranties: written (or express) and implied. An express warranty is represented to the buyer about the car and is usually provided in sales documents, owner’s manuals and other written forms.
Implied warranties are those that are expected of a new car. For instance, when you buy a new car, you expect the engine not to shut down after a few weeks of normal driving. It’s expected that the car will perform like it’s supposed to when subjected to its intended use. These warranties usually aren’t written down or otherwise stated.
There are exceptions to warranties covered. If a car is being sold “as-is,” there is no warranty protection. Federal law also doesn’t acknowledge oral warranties, such as a seller simply saying a car will last 100,000 miles with no issues.
Along with the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, consumers are also covered by the Uniform Commercial Code. While this code, which applies to all US states and territories, covers a lot of different topics, it’s important to know what it says about lemon cars. Under this law, consumers may revoke their acceptance of a defective product — i.e., lemons.
However, the specifics of what qualifies as a lemon and the timeframe in which a consumer can revoke their acceptance of the lemon is left undefined. This means the courts must decide if a manufacturer owes you a replacement or refund. As such, every state has lemon laws on the books to decide what qualifies as a lemon, as well as when and how consumers can get compensation for a defective car.
Let’s look at Georgia’s lemon laws:
State Lemon Laws in Georgia
The Georgia Lemon Law, enacted January 1, 2009, covers new cars and leases. If you buy a new car or lease a car, you are protected by this law for up to two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. However, it’s important to note that the moment a car changes ownership, the Lemon Law is no longer in effect. So if you buy a used car either from a private seller or at a dealership, you aren’t covered by the Georgia Lemon Law.
It’s also important to note that the “defect” in the car must make it unsafe to drive; lower the resale value; or cause malfunctions to normal use in order to be considered a lemon.
If you do buy a lemon, you are entitled to either a full refund of the car or a replacement. However, before you can claim either form of compensation, you must allow the car dealership or manufacturer a reasonable number of attempts to fix the issue. According to the law, a “reasonable number of attempts” includes:
- 1 attempt for an issue that could cause serious injury or death,
- 3 attempts for most other issues, OR
- The car being in the shop for repairs for at least 30 cumulative days.
While Georgia’s Lemon Law covers most new and leased vehicles, there are some that don’t qualify. These include:
- Trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 12,000 pounds or more
- The living area of a motor home
- Other vehicles that don’t qualify as motor vehicles, such as golf cars
What to Do if You Have a Lemon in Georgia
It’s important you keep good records of the attempts made to fix your car. Invoices from your dealership or mechanic are a perfect way to do so. By keeping these invoices, you can prove that a reasonable number of attempts were made to fix the issue, and the problem still wasn’t fixed.
If your lemon still isn’t fixed after a reasonable number or repair attempts, you’ll need to file one of two forms: either the final repair opportunity notice, or the vehicle repurchase or replacement request, depending on the situation. The Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs provides much more information regarding the right paperwork for your situation.
Once you submit the request, most manufacturers will act in good faith and either replace or refund your purchase. However, if the manufacturer refuses to replace the vehicle or provide a full refund, you have legal options.
An experienced Georgia Lemon Law attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve. However, there is a short time limit on filing a claim, so it’s essential you contact one of our attorneys as soon as possible.
If you bought a lemon car in Georgia, and the manufacturer is refusing to give you the compensation you deserve, the experienced attorneys at Hawkins Spizman Fortas can help.