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The Law Offices of Robert J. Nahoum, P.C. - A New York Consumer Protection Law Firm

Brand New Cars Can Be Lemons Too

By: Robert J. Nahoum

New Cars Can Be Lemons Too!

Is there any consumer purchase more intimidating then buying a new car?  You enter the show room and read those signs in the windows of the cars about fuel mileage, the number of cylinders, the suggested retail price and of course the warranty.  But how could you ever know if that warranty is sufficient to protect you.  We’ve all heard the truth that your car loses substantial value as soon as you drive it off the lot.  What if something goes wrong, what if your new car is a lemon?

The New York State New Car Lemon Law provides a legal remedy for buyers of qualifying new lemons.

If your car does not conform to the terms of the written warranty and the manufacturer or its authorized dealer is unable to repair the car, you may be entitled to a full refund or a comparable replacement car.

WHAT CARS A COVERED BY THE LAW?

Cars covered by the lemon law include:

  • Cars covered by the manufacturer’s new car warranty at the time of original delivery; AND
  • Car purchased, leased or transferred within the earlier of the first 18,000 miles or two years from the date of original delivery; AND
  • Cars either: (a) purchased, leased or transferred in New York State, or (b) is presently registered in New York State; AND
  • Cars primarily used for personal purposes.

HOW LONG IS THE WARRANTY?

The length of the New York New Car Lemon Law warranty is the first 18,000 miles or two years, whichever comes first.

WHAT’S THE FIRST THING A CONSUMER SHOULD DO IF HE OR SHE DISCOVERS A DEFECT?

The consumer should immediately report any defect or “condition” covered by the manufacturer’s warranty directly to the manufacturer or to its authorized dealer.

A “condition” is a general problem, such as a difficulty in starting, repeated stalling, or a malfunctioning transmission, that can result from a defect of one or more parts.

Upon notice of the problem, the dealer is required to forward written notice to the manufacturer within seven days.  Under the law, notice to the dealer is considered notice to the manufacturer.

WHAT IS THE MANUFACTURER’S DUTY TO REPAIR?

For covered cars sold and registered in New York State, if the consumer notifies the manufacturer or its authorized dealer of the defect within the first 18,000 miles of operation or two years from the original delivery date, whichever comes first, the manufacturer must repair -free of charge and without any deductible – any defect covered by warranty.

Once notice of the defect is given, the manufacturer may not charge for the repairs, even if the repairs are performed after 18,000 miles or two years.

WHAT ARE THE CONSUMER’S RIGHTS IF THE MANUFACTURER DOES NOT MEET ITS DUTY TO REPAIR?

If the problem is not repaired after a reasonable number of attempts, or the manufacturer or the dealer refuses to commence repairs within 20 days from the manufacturer’s receipt of the “refusal to repair” notice from you, and if the problem substantially impairs the value of the car, the manufacturer may be required to refund the full purchase or lease price, or offer a comparable replacement car.

Whether the car’s value is “substantially impaired” depends on the facts in each case. Generally, the consumer’s complaint must be about a serious problem.  For example, a defect in the engine which makes the car inoperable is clearly substantial.  Some courts have found that the cumulative effect of numerous lesser defects can add up to substantial impairment of value.  The manufacturer is not required to make the repair if the problem is a result of abuse, neglect or unauthorized alteration – such as a dealer installed option- of the car.

The lemon law does not entitle you to receive a brand new vehicle if you elected to receive a “comparable replacement vehicle” instead of a refund.  Rather, you are entitled to receive a car of the same year and model and which has approximately the same mileage as the car being replaced.

HOW MANY REPAIR ATTEMPTS MUST BE ALLOWED?

It is presumed that there has been a reasonable number of attempts to repair a problem if, during the first 18,000 miles of operation or two years from the original delivery date, whichever comes first, either (a) the manufacturer (or its authorized dealer) has had an opportunity to repair the same problem four or more times and the problem continued to exist at the end of the fourth repair attempt; or (b) the car was out of service by reason of repair for a cumulative total of 30 or more calendar days for one or more problems.

CAN THE CONSUMER STILL OBTAIN A REFUND OR A REPLACEMENT CAR IF THE DEFECT HAS BEEN REPAIRED?

The consumer may still be entitled to relief if a defect continued to exist at the end of the fourth repair attempt, or if the car was out-of-service for a total of at least 30 days, notwithstanding that the defect was subsequently repaired.

For example, a defective transmission continued to exist after four repair attempts but on the fifth repair attempt it was fully repaired. Nevertheless, since it was not repaired at the end of the fourth repair attempt, the consumer has met the presumption that a reasonable number of attempts has occurred and he or she may be entitled to relief.

WHAT SHOULD THE CONSUMER DO IF THE DEALER REFUSES TO MAKE REPAIRS?

If the dealer refuses to make repairs within seven days of receiving notice of the condition, the consumer should immediately notify the manufacturer in writing, by certified mail, return receipt requested, of the car’s problem and that the dealer has refused to make repairs.

Upon receipt of notice of the dealers refusal to make the repairs, the manufacturer or its authorized dealer must commence repairs within 20 days from receipt of the.

WHAT SHOULD CONSUMERS DO IF THEY THINK THEY HAVE A LEMON?

If you recently purchased a new vehicle and you’re having mechanical problems, you should immediately report the problem to the dealer and demand that the repairs be made.  Put everything in writing and keep good records of all repairs, work orders, bills and letters.  A dealer is required by Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) regulations to provide a legible and accurate written work order each time any repair work is performed on a car, including warranty work for which no charge is made.

If this doesn’t get you anywhere, consider hiring a qualified consumer protection attorney familiar with the New York Lemon Law.  The law authorizes the court to award the consumer reasonable attorney’s fees if he or she is successful so it may not even cost you a dime.

Robert J. Nahoum, Esq.

The Nyack Business Center
99 Main Street, Suite 311
Nyack, NY 10960-3109
Ph:     (845) 450-2906
Fax:   (888) 450-8640

Email: RJN@nahoumlaw.com
Web:   www.NahoumLaw.com

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