Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Defective Auto Lemon Laws: A Comparison

Today, we have a guest blogger. Sergei Lemberg is an attorney who specializes in lemon law. He is not licensed to practice in Washington, but his site, Lemon Justice, offers detailed information about lemon laws, as well as an interactive Lemon Meter for consumers who want to see if their vehicle qualifies as a lemon. The Washington State Attorney General's office also has an online lemon law webpage.

Now for Sergei's comments:

With all of the cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, and RVs being manufactured in the U.S. and abroad, it’s reasonable to expect that some will have defects. After all, vehicles are incredibly complex pieces of machinery and a lot of things can go wrong. In the best-case scenario, any defects that weren’t caught by quality assurance are quickly repaired by the dealer. In the worst-case scenario, you have a vehicle with pronounced defects that make it run poorly, that constitute a safety hazard, or that reduce its value – and the dealer or manufacturer refuses to buy back or replace it.

That’s why every state has consumer protections for defective vehicles. However, lemon laws vary greatly from state to state. Here’s a synopsis of which vehicles are covered in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, and California.

Washington: Washington Lemon Law covers new passenger vehicles, SUVs, vans, and trucks under 19,000 pounds that are purchased in Washington. It also covers motorcycles with engine displacements over 750 cc and the motorized portions of RVs, as well as business vehicles under 19,000 pounds – as long as the business registers fewer than ten vehicles in the state.

Oregon: Oregon Lemon Law covers new passenger vehicles, SUVs, vans, trucks, and motorcycles that are owned or leased by Oregon residents. It doesn’t cover RVs or business vehicles (although other state and federal laws offer some protections).

Idaho: Idaho Lemon Law covers new passenger vehicles, SUVs, vans, and trucks under 12,000 pounds, as well as used vehicles that are sold during the new car warranty period with manufacturer’s warranties. Vehicles must be purchased, leased, or licensed in Idaho. It doesn’t cover RVs or motorcycles, but does cover business vehicles.

Montana: Montana Lemon Law covers new passenger vehicles, SUVs, vans, and trucks under 10,000 pounds that are purchased or registered in Montana. It also covers the non-residential portions of RVs. It doesn’t cover motorcycles or leased vehicles, but it does cover vehicles owned by a business.

Alaska: Alaska Lemon Law covers new passenger vehicles, SUVs, vans, trucks, motorcycles and RVs that are purchased in Alaska. It doesn’t cover business vehicles or leased vehicles.

California: California Lemon Law covers new or leased vehicles under 10,000 pounds, including motorcycles, demonstrators, and the motorized portions of RVs. It also covers business vehicles, providing the business has no more than five vehicles registered in the state. The law also provides for used cars that are sold with a new car warranty.