Understanding Idaho Lemon Law
Car manufacturers sell on average 150,000 cars per year in the United States classified as lemons: cars with repeated, unfixable problems. Lemons can come from any manufacturer: Chevrolet, Dodge, Nissan and every other manufacturer has built lemon vehicles over the years. Many of those vehicles are sold in Louisiana.
“Lemon laws” enacted across the United States help protect consumers who purchase defective vehicles and provide a legal procedure to compensate them for their losses. Additionally, a powerful federal law known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act provides protection for consumers who purchase cars that are having problems and have an unexpired manufacturer’s warranty.
The Idaho lemon law covers vehicles sold or licensed in the state. The law covers used vehicles, but does not cover motorcycles, farm tractors, or vehicles with a gross laden weight over 12,000 pounds.
Idaho’s lemon law offers protection to consumers who purchase or lease new vehicles for personal business use or personal, family or household use. The lemon law further covers those to whom the vehicle is transferred for the same purposes during the duration of the vehicle’s warranty term.
The lemon law covers vehicle “nonconformities.” Idaho’s lemon law defines a nonconformity as “any defect or condition that substantially impairs the use or market value of a vehicle.” The law does not cover nonconformities caused by abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modifications by the consumer.
Idaho’s lemon law requires manufacturers to repair nonconformities reported by consumers within the warranty period, two years following the vehicle’s delivery, or within the vehicle’s first 24,000 miles of operation. The manufacturer must make the repairs even after the expiration of these periods.
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The manufacturer must replace or repurchase the nonconforming vehicle if they are unable fix the problem after a reasonable number of attempts. The Idaho lemon law defines “reasonable number of attempts” as four or more attempts for the same nonconformity, without success. After that, or if the vehicle is out of service for a cumulative total of 30 business days, the manufacturer must repurchase or replace the vehicle.
If the nonconformity in question results in a condition likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle is driven, the manufacturer has one attempt to repair it before they must buy it back or replace it.
The Idaho lemon law compels manufacturers to repay the full contract price of the vehicle when repurchasing. They must also pay all collateral charges, including sales taxes, license and registration fees, and other governmental charges. The manufacturer must also reimburse the consumer for towing and rental vehicle expenses incurred as a result of the nonconforming vehicle. Idaho’s lemon law allows manufacturers to withhold a reasonable allowance for use. That allowance is calculated using the number of miles driven on the vehicle up until the date of the arbitration hearing.
When replacing a vehicle under the Idaho lemon law, the manufacturer must provide a new vehicle acceptable to the consumer. The reasonable allowance for use does not apply to a replacement.
The Idaho lemon law requires manufacturers doing business in the state to operate or participate in an informal dispute settlement mechanism, i.e. arbitration. The lemon law’s provisions requiring repurchase or replacement do not apply to consumers who do not first resort to arbitration.
In some instances, arbitration can allow for a faster resolution of conflicts between consumers and manufacturers. Arbitration hearings usually last only one day, and take place in a much less formal setting than a court. Consumers should bring all documents relating to the vehicle and the repair process, including the letters exchanged with the manufacturer. They should also arrange for witnesses to appear at the hearing, including friends who have witnessed the vehicle’s problems.
However, arbitration often ends with an outcome unfavorable to the consumer. The third party arbitrator may award the consumer with additional repair attempts, which doesn’t provide any remedy they didn’t have before. They may also decide to dismiss the claim, siding with the manufacturer. The law makes no mention of the ability to recoup attorney’s fees during arbitration. Fortunately, the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act allows for consumers to sue for attorney’s fees alongside damage awards in court.
The manufacturer must abide by the decision of the arbitrator, while the consumer does not. If dissatisfied with the outcome, a consumer can bring civil action in court. By filing a claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, Idaho consumers can hire lawyers who will represent them without the vehicle owner having to pay any attorneys’ fees directly out of their pocket. This is because the federal Act provides that the vehicle manufacturer shall pay the claimants’ reasonable attorneys’ fees if the claimant prevails against the manufacturer. Lemonlawusa.org encourages vehicle owners with a lemon to obtain legal counsel. You can bet the car manufacturers have legal counsel at the ready to help defend against lemon law claims both in arbitration and in court.