What can the Rhode Island Used Car Lemon Law do for me if I have a lemon used car?
Would you like your money back? If you've got a lemon used car, the Rhode Island Used Car Lemon Law can make the dealer buy it back if they fail to fix any covered defect within 3 repair attempts or if your vehicle is out of service for a total of more than 15 days during the warranty coverage. But you have to file your case within 4 years of the original sale date or your rights expire. And only defects which substantially impair the value of the vehicle are counted as defects that are covered by the used car lemon law in Rhode Island and which the selling dealer has to get fixed for you.
What kind of vehicles are covered by Rhode Island's Used Car Lemon Law?
Only used cars costing at least $1,500 are covered. Classic cars are not covered by the Rhode Island Lemon Law for used cars, and neither are vans or pickup trucks or motorcycles. The vehicle also must be used for your personal use - no business vehicles are covered. But some used vehicles that are not covered by the Rhode Island Used Car Lemon Law will still be covered by the federal Lemon Law (the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act) as long as the dealer gave the buyer a written warranty of any length at all. New vehicles have their own lemon law in Rhode Island so the Rhode Island Ucar Lemon Law does not apply to new vehicles at all.
How long is my used car warranty under the Rhode Island Used Car Lemon Law?
When you buy a used car in Rhode Island 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 the car when you got it. Here's a chart that explains it. Up to 36,000 miles - 60 days or 3,000 mile warranty 36,000 to 100,000 miles - 30 days or 1,000 mile warranty
Can a Dealer sell a vehicle "as is" under this law?
Yes, but only if they put a large, specific written notice on the car's windshield that warns you in advance and that says so. The sign has to be plainly visible and be the size of a regular sheet of paper, 8 1/2 by 11 inches) and it has to say, in one inch tall bold print type "NO WARRANTY AS TO CONDITION - SOLD AS IS". In addition, they have to say the same sort of words on your sales contract in larger and different colored type from the rest of the contract and both the buyer and the dealer have to initial the warranty waiver clause.
How do I know if I have a a used car that is a lemon under the Rhode Island Used Car Lemon Law?
The dealer is only allowed a limited number of chances to repair problems that substantially impair the value of your used car. The dealer must repair any problem with the engine, transmission, drive axle, brakes, steering, or ignition system. If one or more of the following circumstances occurs during the warranty period, then the dealer is automatically presumed to have made a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle, and you've got a lemon used car. A lemon in Rhode Island is one where: the same defect has been worked on 3 times and did not get fixed by the end of the third attempt, or it's been out of service for a total of 15 days during the warranty period because of repairs, although the dealer can have up to 45 days total to get needed parts and finish the repair. You only have to fit one of the two possible presumption definitions. The used car Lemon Law in Rhode Island also requires the dealer to fix any defect in those systems within a reasonable number of attempt
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. And keep a copy. 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 either one of the definitions of a lemon used car, ask them to buy it back. Make notes of everything that you say to them and what they say to you, so you have a record in case you need it later. If they don't resolve it satisfactory to you, then you may want to complain to the Rhode Island Attorney General or contact a private Lemon Law attorney near you. If you aren't satisfied with the offer the dealer makes, then you should discuss your case with a local Lemon Law attorney but act quick before you lose your Lemon Law rights. You only have one year from your purchase to start your case in Court.
The dealer wants to charge me for my mileage (a "usage fee"), do I have to do that?
No. Also, the dealer can deduct for any damage to the vehicle that occurred while you owned it but not for normal wear and tear. But if you made any improvement to the vehicle, the dealer has to pay you for the increase in market value caused by your improvement to the vehicle. They can deduct if you remove equipment from the vehicle too. If you had a trade in then they have to etiher give you that back in substantially the same condition it was in when you gave it to them or pay you the NADA wholesale book value of it.
Should I file for arbitration? What if I don't want to? Is arbitration a good idea?
Sometimes called an "Informal Dispute Settlement Procedure" it may not be available to you anyway, but if the dealer has set up a system that complies with the federal Magnuson Moss Warranty Act (sometimes called the federal warranty law) then you may have to use that process before you can go to court. Most dealers don't. Some dealers may also have a settlement process that is sometimes called "arbitration" outside of the state used car lemon law, and you can use their process if you want and you won't have to hire a lawyer to do it. But you should talk to an experienced Lemon Law attorney about the advantages and disadvantages of an Informal Dispute Settlement Procedure and about arbitration, so you know what you are getting into.
Do I have to hire a lawyer?
No, but you probably would do better if you did. Besides, the Rhode Island Used Car Lemon Law says that if you win then the court can award you your attorney fees too. 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? When you try to negotiate with a car dealer you are dealing with professional negotiators who are paid to negotiate every day. In a used car lemon law case, the dealer will try to settle with you for as little as they can get away with it. This isn't going to be easy. They often tell you what they think the law is and why your case doesn't fit the lemon laaw - and if you don't know the law, you probably won't be able 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
How can I find more free info about the Rhode Island Lemon Law for used cars?
You can talk to a Rhode Island Lemon Law attorney near you. Or for free Used Car Lemon Law information, contact the Rhode Island Attorney General's Consumer Protection Help line by calling 401.274.4400. You can learn more by clicking on the resources below too. But don't wait too long. Remember that you only have a limited amount of time to file a claim or your rights expire.
How do I get more help?
Your lemon law lawyer will decide whether to file a lawsuit or attempt to negotiate "pre-suit" (which means without filing a lawsuit) settlement. 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 Rhode Island used car lemon law attorney can discuss the court process with you 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, and what you can do to help win you case. Remember, you only have 4 years from your purchase to file your case in Court or your used car lemon law rights are gone.