What can the Massachusetts Lemon Law for used vehicles do for me if I have a lemon used car or van or truck or demonstration vehicle?
Would you like your money back? Well, that's what you can get. If you've got a lemon used car or van or truck or demonstration vehicle, the Massachusetts Used Vehicle Lemon Law can make the dealer buy it back if your used vehicle had a defect that impaired your vehicle's use or safety that was not, or could not, be fixed by the end of the third attempt or if it was out of service for repair reasons a total of eleven business days during the warranty period provided by the law. And the Used Vehicle Lemon Law covers you when you buy a used vehicle from a private person too.
What Kind of Vehicles Are Covered by Massachusetts's Used Vehicle Lemon Law?
Used cars and van or truck or demonstration vehicles which have at least 15,000 miles but less than 125,000 miles on it are covered. Vehicles with less than 15,000 miles are covered if the car or van or truck or demonstration vehicle is more than one year old. If the vehicle is less than one year old and has less than 15,000 miles on it, the Massachusetts New Car Lemon Law applies to it, instead of the Used Vehicle Lemon Law. Also only vehicles bought from a Massachusetts dealer or private person are covered.
What Vehicles Are Not Covered by the Massachusetts Used Vehicle Lemon Law?
The law does not cover any vehicle you buy from a dealer where the price is less than $700 or if the mileage is more than 125,000. It also does not cover business vehicles. The law also does not cover motorcycles, mopeds, dirtbikes, leased vehicles, motorhomes and vehicles built primarily for off-road use. But vehicles that are not covered by the Massachusetts Used Vehicle Lemon Law may still be covered by the federal Lemon Law (the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act) as long as they were purchased from a dealer who gave the buyer a written warranty of any length at all. Also, new vehicles have their own lemon law in Massachusetts so the used vehicle lemon law does not apply to new vehicles.
How Long Is My Used Vehicle Warranty under the Massachusetts Used Vehicle Lemon Law?
The length of your mandatory warranty is based on the mileage on the vehicle. When you buy a used car or a used van or truck or demonstration vehicle in Massachusetts you automatically get a warranty from the dealer - even if the dealer doesn't give you a document that says so. How long is the warranty for? That depends on how many miles were on it when you got it. If the vehicle had less than 40,000 miles on it when you got the vehicle, then your mandatory warranty is 90 days or 3,750 miles. If it was between 40,000 and 79,999 miles, then it's 60 days or 2,500 miles. For 80,000 to 124,999 miles, it's 30 days or 1,250 miles. Of course, there are times when the actual mileage may be unknown. When that happens, the warranty you get by law will depend on the age of the vehicle. If it was 3 years old or less, then your mandatory warranty is 90 days or 3,750 miles. More than 3 and less than 6 years old, it's 60 days or 2,500 miles. And if it was more than 6 years old, 30 days or 1,250 miles
What Does the Mandatory Warranty Cover under the Massachusetts Used Vehicle Lemon Law?
It must cover the total cost of parts and labor to repair a defect that affects the vehicle's safety or use. But the warranty may require the consumer to pay up to $100 of the repair bill if the dealer put that term in the written warranty at the date of sale.
How Do I Know If I Have a Lemon under this Law?
The dealer is only allowed a limited number of chances to repair problems in your used car or van or truck or demonstration vehicle. There are two definitions of a lemon under the Used Vehicle Lemon Law. You've got a lemon if the vehicle was worked on for 3 times for the same defect without it getting fixed. You've also got a lemon if it's been out of service for a total of 15 or more days because of repairs, although the unavailability of parts may extend this time, but not more than 45 days total. You only have to fit one of the two possible presumption definitions. The used vehicle Lemon Law in Massachusetts also requires the dealer to fix any defect in those systems within a reasonable number of attempts, if it happens to be less.
I Think I Have a Lemon, So What Do I Do Now?
Start negotiating. Contact the dealer. Write a short and simple letter, an email, send a fax, make a phone call. Your letter should just say you think you have a lemon, it's their fault, and tell them you want your money back. If the problem has not been fixed and you meet one or both of the two definitions of a lemon then tell them to buy it back. Under the Used Vehicle Lemon Law, they have to take it back and refund your money. Make notes of everything that you say to them on the phone or in person and what they say to you, so you have a record in case you need it later. You can keep the vehicle until you get your refund but you have to offer to return it to the dealer within five days after your warranty period expires and tell them about the defect. If they don't resolve it satisfactory to you, then you may want to complain to the Massachusetts Director of Commerce and Consumer Affairs or contact a private Lemon Law attorney near you.
The Dealer Wants to Charge Me for My Mileage (A "Usage Fee"), Do I Have to Do That?
The dealer has the right to deduct from your refund 15 cents for each mile you drove the vehicle and also any "over-allowance" (sometimes called "negative equity") on any trade in vehicle that was in the deal when you bought the vehicle. For instance, if your trade in was only worth $1,000 but the dealer gave you a trade in allowance of $1,500, then you only get back $1,000. But be careful because the dealer may claim there was an over-allowance when there really wasn't. Look at your sales contract and try to also find out what the dealer resold your trade in for. Then, negotiate the numbers.
If I Bought My Used Vehicle from a Private Person, Not a Car Dealer, Do I Have Any Rights?
Yes. Massachusetts has a special lemon law for used car sales involving private people. The law requires the seller to tell the buyer about any known defects that impair the safety or substantially impair the value of the used vehicle. Sale price and mileage don't matter. But the buyer has to discover the defect and notify the seller within 30 days of the purchase and the seller has to refund the price. But the seller gets to deduct 15 cents for each mile you drove on the vehicle.
Should I File for Arbitration? What If I Don't Want To?
You don't have to. Some dealers have a settlement process that is sometimes called "arbitration" and you can use their process if you want and you won't have to hire a lawyer to do it. The state of Massachusetts also has a voluntary arbitration process for consumers with lemon used vehicles that are covered by the Used Vehicle Lemon Law. If you don't want to go through the dealer's "dispute resolution process" (that's also what they sometimes call it) or the state-run process, you don't have to but you should talk to an experienced Lemon Law attorney about the advantages and disadvantages of it. If you aren't satisfied with the offer the dealer makes, or with the result of the arbitration (if you try it), then you should discuss your case with a Lemon Law attorney and find out just how strong your case may be. But act quick before you lose your Lemon Law rights.
Do I Have to Hire a Lawyer?
No, but you probably would do better if you did. There have been some studies done and they all come back the same way: you get paid more when you have a lawyer on your side. Why? You have to realize that when you try to negotiate with a car dealer you will be dealing with professional negotiators who are paid to negotiate every day. In a used vehicle lemon law case, the dealer will try to settle with you for as little as they can (and they are hoping it will be nothing at all if they can get away with it). This isn't going to be easy for you. They often tell you what they think the law is and why your case doesn't fit it - and if you don't know the law then you probably don't know how to argue back with them. So how do you get ready for a lawyer? First decide what it is that you want and what the minimum is that you will settle for. Next, get all your paperwork together and write out a diary of everything that happened from beginning to end and then talk with a Lemon Law attorney.
How Can I Find Free Info about the Massachusetts Lemon Law for Used Cars and Van or Truck or Demonstration Vehicles?
There are more links below. You can also talk to a Massachusetts Lemon Law attorney near you. Or for free Used Vehicle Lemon Law information, go to http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/consumer/autos/lemon-laws/used-vehicle-warranty-law.html where more information or legal help can be found.
How do I get help?
Your lemon law lawyer will decide whether to file a lawsuit or attempt to negotiate "pre-suit" (which means without filing a lawsuit). If the dealer doesn't make an offer that you can live with then you can expect that a lawsuit will likely be necessary. Your Massachusetts Used Vehicle Lemon Law attorney can discuss the court process with you in detail and tell you how long it may take and what you can expect out of it. Most importantly, you should discuss with your attorney things like your continued use of the vehicle, what to do if more defects arise, the desirability of hiring an independent expert witness, and what you can do to help win you case.
Additional resources provided by the author
The Massachusetts Used Vehicle Lemon Law can help you get rid of your lemon used car or lemon used van or truck or demonstration vehicle, but you should work with your lemon law attorney closely to get the best result. Here are some more resources you can turn to for more information, answers, and help.