Understanding New York 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: Toyota, Chrysler, Ford and almost every other manufacturer has built lemon vehicles over the years. Many of those vehicles are sold in New York.
“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. New York is no exception. 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 York State New Car Lemon Law provides a legal remedy for consumers who buy or lease new cars and certain used cars that turn out to be lemons. According to the law, if the car does not conform to terms of its written warranty and the manufacturer or their authorized agent is unable to repair the car after a reasonable number of attempts, the consumer is entitled to a refund or replacement.
Vehicles covered by New York’s lemon law include those covered by a warranty at original delivery. It also covered vehicles purchased, leased or transferred before hitting 18,000 miles or two years from the original date of delivery. The car must also have been purchased, leased or transferred in New York State or be presently registered in the state, and be primarily used for personal purposes.
New York’s lemon law also covers certain used cars. The law covers any used car purchased, leased or transferred after the earlier of 18,000 miles or two years from original delivery. The vehicle must also be purchased or leased from a New York dealer. The used car must be sold or leased at a price of at least $1,500. Finally, the used car must have less than 100,000 miles at the time of purchase or lease and be used primarily for personal purposes.
The lemon law states a vehicle must be repaired by the manufacturer or its authorized agent four or more times without success before it’s considered a lemon. A car can also be considered a lemon if it’s out of service for a total of 30 days or more. If either of these criteria are met, the consumer is entitled to a refund or replacement. However, manufacturers are not compelled to refund or replace the vehicle if the problem does not “substantially impair the value of the car to the consumer.” Abuse, neglect or unauthorized alterations of the car also absolve the manufacturer of its duty to refund or replace.
Car dealers selling used cars with mileages less than 100,000 are required to provide statutory warranties depending on the amount of miles driven on the car. Cars between 18,001 and 36,000 miles are entitled to a warranty lasting 90 days or 4,000 miles. Cars between 36,001 and 79,999 miles get a warranty of 60 days or 3,000 miles, and cars between 80,000 and 100,000 get a warranty of 30 days or 1,000 miles. The warranties cover certain components of the vehicle, listed here.
New York’s lemon law says a dealer has “three or more” chances to fix a defective used car. If after three or more attempts the problem remains, or the car has been out of service for 15 days or more, the consumer is entitled to a refund.
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Many manufacturers’ warranties require consumers to go through arbitration before pursuing legal action. Arbitration can sometimes 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. Also, while attorneys are permissible at an arbitration hearing, New York’s lemon law does not provide for the recovery of attorneys’ fees for representation in an arbitration hearing, although the filing fee can be recovered.
New York’s lemon law provides an alternative to manufacturer-mandated arbitration by allowing consumers to submit their claim to an independent arbitrator approved by the Attorney General of New York. Unfortunately, consumers may have to pay a fee for this service.
If the arbitrator finds in favor of the consumer, the manufacturer has thirty days to comply with the arbitrator’s decision before penalties mount, unless they decide to challenge it. However, either party may file a lawsuit to challenge the arbitrator’s award within 90 days of receipt of the award. By pursuing a claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, New York 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’ attorneys’ fees if the claimant prevails against the manufacturer.