• Will Percy

Your Car Is a Lemon; Now What?

The unmistakable smell of a new car usually comes without worries about breakdowns and costly automobile repairs. Unless, your car is a lemon! The good news is Louisiana's "lemon law" protects consumers for defective vehicles.

What the Lemon Law Covers

Consumers who buy or lease a new vehicle with a "nonconformity" are entitled to a refund or replacement from the manufacturer. The Better Business Bureau defines nonconformity as "a specific or generic defect or malfunction, or any defect or condition that substantially impairs the use and/or market value of a motor vehicle."

If you bought a lemon, you can request either a replacement vehicle or refund. The manufacturer has the right just to issue an owner refund. This includes:

  • Full purchase price of vehicle

  • Sales tax

  • Finance charges

  • License and registration fees

  • Minus a reasonable allowance for previous use of the vehicle

For leased vehicles, manufacturers must cover the outstanding lease amount, early termination fees and reasonable expenditures.

The law also protects consumers who purchase defective used vehicles that are not more than a year old or have an expired original warranty.

What Makes a Lemon

The law covers any car, truck or van sold in Louisiana that is designed and used to transport passengers or goods for private, public or commercial purposes. It also applies to personal watercraft and all-terrain vehicles, and all chassis and drivetrains of motor homes sold in the state.

Motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 or more and only used for commercial purposes don't fall under lemon law coverage.

How the Lemon Law Works

A vehicle is considered a lemon when there are problems that the manufacturer or dealer does not or cannot repair after four attempts or if the vehicle has one additional nonconformity that keeps it out of service for 90 days or more.

If either happen, the consumer submits a claim and offer to return the defective vehicle directly to the manufacturer. The law requires the manufacturer to issue a refund or deliver a replacement within 30 days. The two parties must submit to arbitration if the claim is denied.

The claims process must begin within one year of the warranty expiring or three years after the vehicle was purchased—whichever is later. For leased vehicles, the claim must be filed before end of the lease.

What Happens If Claim Is Denied

If a claim is denied and the manufacturer has an arbitration program certified by Louisiana, the owner or lessee must go through arbitration. If arbitration is unsuccessful or the automaker does not have a certified program, the consumer can file a lawsuit.

Navigating Louisiana's lemon law can be difficult for consumers, so it's advisable to consult an attorney who specializes in lemon law litigation. Even if the manufacturer offers a refund, your attorney can review it to make sure you're being fairly compensated.

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