What is a lemon?
A “lemon” is a colloquial phrase used to characterize a car that just cannot seem to get fixed. In essence, the car continually fails to perform at the standard the manufacturer intended them to. To protect consumers against these types of cars, and to hold manufacturers accountable for making them, lemon laws were introduced in the late 80s.
But I think a lot of people wonder how these cars came to bare such a title. It turns out, we are all justifiably confused because the term “lemon” appeared on the car scene rather recently and without much history. The first time a political body saw this term in the context we see it now, was in 1980 when California attempted to pass a set of lemon laws. However, just a few years earlier, in 1971, Ralph Nadar published a book entitled What to do with Your Bad Car: An Action Manual for Lemon Owners. Prior to that, the term “lemon” in association with cars is nil. The closest the term “lemon” got to representing the meaning we know today was, according to Online Etymology Dictionary, was in 1906. Lemon was British slang for “to pass off a sub-standard article as a good one.” Interesting.
Qualifications (How to demonstrate that your car is a lemon)
In order for your car to be considered a “lemon” under Florida’s lemon laws, the car must be:
1.) bought or leased in Florida and
2.) still be under the original manufacturer’s warrantee.
There are variations in warrantees and you should check with the manufacturer, authorized dealer or another reputable source to verify the official terms of your manufacturer’s warrantee. It’s important to determine this information first, or else, unfortunately, your car will not be considered a lemon and there will likely be no relief awarded.
Important rest stop addressing questions about used cars
There’s some confusion out there regarding used cars and their lemon qualification, like, “I bought a used car, does that automatically disqualify me form the lemon laws?” Answer: Not necessarily. Rejoice, used car owners! Okay okay, back to reality. Usually used cars are older, and consequently, do not fall under the manufacturer’s original warrantee. However, if the used car does in fact fall under that original manufacturer’s warrantee, then you could have a lemon on your hands.
Moving forward. If your car IS under the original manufacturer’s warrantee, then there are two things that classify it as a lemon:
1.) There are three failed repairs on the same problem (that radiator keeps overheating again and again and…ugh again)
2.) You sent your car into the repair shop and it’s taking longer than 15 days to get fixed.
Note: It’s exceedingly important that you save your records, contracts, bills, receipts. Pretty much anything and everything. Without paperwork, it’s very difficult to prove the above two conditions.
So my car’s a lemon…now what? Should I add more gas, frustration, sunk costs, wasted time and sugar to make lemonade?
Did you get that recipe off the Food Network? Sounds like a few more steps than pouring my Crystal Light package into a glass of water. Having a lemon car is exhausting. Here’s what to do once you determine it is a lemon. In order for you to proceed with the lemon law process you must first:
1.) Write a letter to the manufacturer stating the problem and listing all expenses associated with it, minus a reasonable amount for mileage.
It’s recommended that you get the legal guidance and advice at this time. The laws dealing with the manufacturer and the state can sometimes be complicated and having a lawyer on your side will hopefully nix potentially problems and also speed up the process. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I suppose) they may take your claim more seriously once you have enlisted the help of a lawyer.
If you contact the manufacturer about the three failed repair attempts, the manufacturer has ten days to:
- Take the car back and remedy the problem within a reasonable time frame from the receipt of the letter.
If you contact the manufacturer about a repair that is taking longer than 15 days, then:
- If the manufacturer cannot repair it within 30 days upon receipt of your letter, you can file a claim with their informal settlement board
- If they do not have an informal settlement board, or you are not satisfied with their offer, you can notify the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that you wish to request a ruling by the New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board.
Lemons are sour, frustrating, exhausting and leave a bad taste in your mouth. So if you think you have one, you should certainly try to take advantage of the laws in place to be compensated for your losses. One final remark. If your car is not quite TECHINCALLY a lemon (maybe you had it in the shop “only” 12 days or it’s a few months past the original warrantee), there’s still a chance that there is actually something wrong with the car. It’s suggested that you seek legal advice for these things.