Understanding New Hampshire 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, Ford and almost every other manufacturer has built lemon vehicles over the years. Many of those vehicles are sold in New Hampshire.
“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 New Hampshire lemon law provides relief to consumers making one of the largest purchases they will ever make.
The law protects consumers purchasing or leasing new vehicles, as well as anyone to whom the vehicle is transferred within the duration of the vehicle’s warranty. The law further protects anyone entitled by the terms of a vehicle’s warranty to enforce its obligations.
New Hampshire’s lemon law covers vehicles purchased or leased in the state. The vehicle must be a “private passenger or station wagon type” not exceeding a gross weight of 11,000 pounds. The lemon law further covers any other four-wheeled motor vehicle with a gross weight not exceeding 11,000, as well as motorcycles, off-highway recreational vehicles and snowmobiles.
New Hampshire’s lemon law does not cover tractors or mopeds. It does, however, cover used vehicles still under the manufacturer’s warranty.
The lemon law covers “nonconformities.” A nonconformity is any specific or generic defect that substantially impairs the use, market value or safety of a vehicle. This by definition renders a vehicle “nonconforming” to the terms of an applicable manufacturer’s express warranty or implied warranty of merchantability.
The New Hampshire lemon law does not cover nonconformities that don’t substantially impair the use, value or safety of the vehicle. For example, a radio problem or slight rattle would not be considered nonconformities, while a faulty starter or malfunctioning brake system would be.
The lemon law also does not cover any nonconformity the manufacturer can prove was caused by accident, abuse, neglect or unauthorized modification of the vehicle by the consumer.
The manufacturer must repair any nonconformity reported to them by the consumer within the warranty period. The manufacturer must make the repairs even if the warranty term has expired by the time work begins. If the manufacturer is unable to conform the vehicle to its warranty, the New Hampshire lemon law requires them to either repurchase or replace it.
The New Hampshire lemon law presumes the manufacturer had a reasonable number of repair attempts to fix the nonconformity. The lemon law defines that as three repair attempts for the same problem, or 30 cumulative days out of service for the same problem. If either criteria is met, the presumption applies and the consumer should notify the manufacturer of their claim for repurchase or replacement.
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New Hampshire’s lemon requires manufacturers to repay the full purchase price when repurchasing the nonconforming vehicle. Manufacturers must also repay license and finance fees, credit charges, registration fees and other incidental and consequential damages. Manufacturers may withhold a reasonable allowance for use, calculated from the number of miles driven on the vehicle up to the first attempt to repair it.
The New Hampshire lemon law requires replacement vehicles to be a new vehicle from the same manufacturer of comparable worth to the nonconforming vehicle, with all options and accessories. Adjustments must be allowed for any model year differences. The reasonable allowance for use does not apply to replacement vehicles.
When informing the manufacturer of their desire for repurchase or replacement, the New Hampshire consumer must choose between using the state arbitration board or the manufacturer’s informal dispute resolution mechanism.
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, New Hampshire 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.