Is your car a lemon? Dealing with a faulty vehicle
Purchasing any car can turn into a nightmare if you accidentally buy a lemon. Issues like a faulty engine, worn breaks, and damaged electronics. And unlike buying most faulty products, a car isn’t as easy to throw away or return.
What is a lemon car?
A lemon is a vehicle with many manufacturing defects that affect its safety, utility, and value. Although only cars with problems from the manufacturing process can be truly labeled a lemon, the term is often used with any vehicle that’s too compromised to serve its purpose usefully.
The first use of the word, lemon, to describe a faulty vehicle was in a Volkswagen advertisement campaign in 1960 with the tagline, “We pluck the lemons, you pick the plums.” Since then, the term has taken off, becoming synonymous with any vehicle that comes from the manufacturer with problems.
Lemons could suffer from a number of complications. A lemon could have airbag defects, problems with the braking system, and engine troubles.
A personal example for me would be a seatbelt failure. One day a few years ago, the seatbelt in my relatively new Fiat locked up on me when I leaned forward a bit in my seat. I was stuck in my car trying to figure out how to get the seatbelt off for a good hour. In the end, I had to cut it off to get out.
Later on, I discovered I wasn’t the only driver of this particular model with seatbelt problems. It was a really frustrating experience, and it wasn’t even a particularly bad example of a manufacturing issue in a vehicle.
It is important to remember that any damage to a lemon is not your fault. The company that makes them is to blame and there are ways to be compensated for owning a lemon.
Checking out your local state laws will usually bring you to a lemon law that can compensate you. However, every state’s laws on lemons differ and your state might not consider your vehicle to qualify as a lemon, even if you think it should.
For example, New Jersey’s lemon laws are much more favorable than Delaware’s. Not all states have used car lemon laws either, so it seems caution and prevention are the best cures for this issue.
Is your car a lemon?
So how do you tell if your car is a lemon? If you’re frequently taking it to the shop to get it fixed, that is a pretty good indicator.
A good idea is to research your specific year, make, and model to see what people are saying about it. You might find out there are actually tons of other people having the same problems as you are having with your vehicle. That research might have saved me the effort of cutting myself out of my seat and then replacing the belt.
In some cases, there may be a class-action lawsuit against the manufacturer that you would be able to get in on and receive a settlement for. But be wary, however — in some cases, a class action settlement would put you in a worse position for your state’s lemon law case. This is because in some cases, a class-action lawsuit would take the place of your own lemon law claim.
Before going that route, it’s best to send a formal letter to the company stating your claim and preferred compensation. If your claim is denied, then you can decide to go through the legal process of getting rid of your lemon and getting your money back too.
This process can be tough and long-lasting. It may take several years to get your money back and you would need an attorney. If you tend to worry about things often, then this will not help in that regard.
Success in court, however, would make it worth it with ample compensation and this is only if you need to battle it out with the company legally and you have not joined a class-action lawsuit.
It is important to note that the vehicle’s defects and shortcomings should be attributed to the manufacturer. If you have a damaged or totaled car, it does not really qualify for this legal action. If that’s the case, you might want to sell your damaged car instead.
It is always important to do research on any vehicle you have an interest in buying to prevent accidentally purchasing a lemon. I would recommend using Carfax if it is a used vehicle and looking up what people have to say about getting a new model. That can help you minimize the chances of taking home a lemon in the first place.