Red Flags to Look For When Buying a Vehicle

August 23, 2023

 

Purchasing a vehicle is a big financial commitment. Make sure you are getting what you are paying for.

State lemon laws protect consumers who buy defective vehicles by requiring the manufacturer or dealer to repair the vehicle a reasonable number of times. The definition of a "reasonable" number of attempts varies by state.

Unusual Symptoms

A car requires regular maintenance to function at its best. However, when a vehicle has recurring issues that aren't easy to fix, it could be a lemon. Unusual problems like a leaking engine, dashboard lights that don't work, or a vehicle refusing to start are common symptoms of lemon cars. Some of these problems may even be dangerous.

Many states have laws to protect consumers from buying a lemon. They typically require the dealer to make a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle before determining that it is a lemon. Keep detailed records of all your repairs, including the dates, descriptions of the problem and repair invoices. It's important to have proof of your attempts to repair the vehicle to demonstrate that the manufacturer has had an opportunity to resolve the issue.

The law can also include other criteria for determining that a vehicle is a lemon. These can consist of problems that substantially impair the vehicle's use and value and cause it to be out of service for 30 days or more. These include stalling, refusing to start, overheating, jerking, misfiring, or failing brakes or steering. Even if the vehicle is under warranty, these problems can be considered lemons if the dealership doesn't fix them after a reasonable time.

Unusual Repairs

As mentioned above, lemon law in Pennsylvania typically applies to vehicles that cannot be fixed within a reasonable time or mileage marker after a person purchases or leases the car. If the dealership does not remedy a substantial problem that substantially impairs the vehicle's use, value or safety, the consumer may be entitled to either repurchase or compensation. Repurchase involves the dealer buying back the car at its original purchase price, while compensation is a monetary payment covering the value difference.

If a vehicle has been in the hands of several previous owners, the owner's history report can provide valuable information. Check the VHR to see if any prior owners had the vehicle repossessed for unpaid loan debt or totaled in an accident. Also, look for unusual repairs – if the same issue occurs after two or three repair attempts, it indicates that this might be a lemon.

If you suspect a used car is a lemon, have it inspected by a qualified mechanic before you buy it? A professional can determine whether the problems are due to normal wear and tear or manufacturer defects. If the car is a lemon, a reputable law firm can help you get a refund or replacement under state and federal laws.

Unusual Repair Time

There are many reasons that a car may require unusually long repair times. These can include the time needed to find parts or diagnose problems. Also, some problems are more complicated than others and take longer to fix. This can be an indication that the problem is more serious than expected.

The time a vehicle spends out of commission due to repairs can also indicate a lemon. Some states have laws that cover cars out of service for a certain amount of time after a reasonable number of attempts at repairing the problem or when the problem is a safety risk.

While these issues are not common, it is important to keep an eye out for them in case you end up purchasing a lemon car. If you have questions about lemon laws or how they work in your state, consult a qualified attorney.

Another way to help protect yourself from buying a lemon is to check the car's title history. Many vendors offer a free VHR that shows accidents and other significant events. It will also tell you the vehicle's owner list, indicating if it has been through a lot. You can also look for odometer tampering, which can lower the mileage on the odometer. This is a major violation of lemon laws and can cause major financial consequences for the car's owner.

Unusual Repair Costs

The repair costs for lemon cars can increase quickly and cause significant financial strain. Understanding your warranty and your state's lemon law is important to determine how much you can expect to pay for repairs. Also, keep track of your repair history and all communication with dealership managers and vehicle manufacturers. If you plan on pursuing legal action, you may need this information for your case.

Generally, a vehicle can be considered a lemon if it has a substantial defect and the manufacturer or dealer cannot fix it within a reasonable number of repair attempts. Different states have specific requirements for how many repair attempts are needed and how long a car must be out of service before it becomes a lemon.

While it is rare to find a new or used lemon nowadays, this problem still occurs in some cases. Luckily, modern cars are more reliable and offer a quality that would have been unthinkable for a mass-produced vehicle 20 years ago. Nonetheless, you should always do your research and be prepared to take a used car to a mechanic for a professional inspection before buying it. This inspection will cost you money but can save you time and headaches.

 

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