Get all your repair documents and records together and put it all in chronological order, starting with the oldest repair document first. If you are missing any, then go to the repair facility and get them to give you another copy. To be sure you have everything, ask your dealer to give you a Vehicle Warranty Repair History. It lists every thing ever done to the vehicle. Then make sure your records match up with it. Where they don't, ask the dealer for that repair order so that your records are complete.
Figure Out What You Want the Manufacturer to Do
Decide what you want. Do you want a buyback or a replacement? Are you willing to settle for either approach? If you want a replacement, most manufacturers will want you to pay for any difference in sticker price but many Lemon Laws say you don't have to do that; they usually will want you to pay for mileage (they call it usage) too but many Lemon Laws say you don't have to do that either. If you want a buyback, they will try to deduct something for mileage again, so be prepared for it. Generally, you are entitled to get back all your loan payments, your down payment, the value of your trade in vehicle, any permanent improvements you made to the vehicle, and make the manufacturer pay off the loan. But, it's all negotiable. Remember, the harder you argue, the more likely you'll get closer to what you want.
Know Your State's Lemon Law Rights
Every state has a Lemon Law and every manufacturer will know what the definition of a lemon is in your state. You need to know that too, in order to level the playing field in your negotiations. A great outline of all 50 US Lemon Laws (complete with your state definition of a lemon vehicle and the citation to find the law so you can read it for yourself) can be found on this web page: http://ohiolemonlaw.com/state-lemon-law-summaries.htm. Make sure you fit the law before you waste time arguing about it. If you don't have a lemon, then keep taking your vehicle back to the dealer's repair shop until you clearly meet the definition. The better your case, the more likely you'll get the settlement you want.
Write Your Demand Letter to the Manufacturer
Over 30 years of Lemon Law experience has taught us that writing a demand letter about your Lemon vehicle can help you get rid of your lemon car, lemon truck, lemon motorcycle, or lemon RV. So here's a free Lemon Law Demand letter you can use to create a customized manufacturer defective product letter that you can print and mail: http://ohiolemonlaw.com/complaint-form.html. However, don't expect the manufacturer to immediately buy back or replace your Lemon vehicle, but you can use this Lemon Law demand letter to put your case in a much stronger legal position and to start the negotiation process. This is just a sample letter so feel free to modify it. Be sure you give them a deadline to answer you or you may never get a response. The deadline pushes your letter through their system.
Plan Your Counteroffer While You Wait
It will take the manufacturer probably 30 days or more to answer your Lemon Law Demand letter. During that time you should be planning what to do, depending on how they answer. Manufacturers hardly ever accept a consumer's first request for Lemon Law relief and they almost always do one of two things: (1) make a counteroffer, or (2) refuse your request completely. If you have a true lemon car or truck, you can figure they will still try to negotiate with you. Decide just how much you are willing to give up in order to get it over and done with more quickly. Make the decision on what your "bottom line" is now, while you are waiting to hear from them, so you are ready to react quickly once you get their response. And once you decide on what your bottom line is, don't tell them what it is either. You can expect that the manufacturer will want to go through at least 2 or 3 rounds of negotiating with you, to gradually get your number lower.
What to Do If the Manufacturer Ignore You
The squeaky wheel still gets the grease. Writing complaint letters to everyone you can think of may help. Include the selling dealership, the finance company who financed your purchase, your local TV station or newspaper consumer reporter, your local Better Business Bureau, maybe even your state's Attorney General (they generally are the ones who enforce the state Lemon Law. Make it one page long and just explain what you bought, what went wrong, why the manufacturer and dealer aren't helping you, why you think their decision is wrong, and ask for help. Don't expect much help, but send a copy of your letters to the dealer and the manufacturer every time too. The more you complain, the more likely it is they will want to do something to make you "go away." Just make sure that every letter is accurate and that you sound reasonable every time.
Why Arbitration May Not Help Much
Many manufacturers have a "free" mediation or arbitration process that they will tell you that you "must" use. In most cases, that's not really true. Be careful about any process like that if decide to try it. Remember, someone is paying for the process and mediators and arbitrators often count on repeat business, so their loyalty may not be toward you at all. Also, the rules of the process may not entitle you to get back all of your money, even though your state's Lemon Law may say you are supposed to, so make sure you find out all the rules before you ever agree to use any process like that at all. Make sure that you don't give up your legal right to go to court later if you don't like the mediation or arbitration decision too, and make sure you have that in writing so no one tries to change it later on you.
When All Else Fails: Your Last Resort
Get a lawyer. Not just any lawyer though. State Lemon Laws can be confusing and there are enough gray areas that manufacturers can still argue about what your rights are even when you think you've got clear lemon car or truck. You wouldn't use a dentist to fix your water heater, so don't use a Probate lawyer to handle a Lemon Law case. The manufacturers know who the Lemon Law lawyers are and they know which ones will fight them hard and which ones never go to court too. Find one that will fight for you. Almost all state Lemon Laws for (cars and trucks, but not Rv's) say that the manufacturer has to pay for you lawyer too, so you probably won't have to pay anything more than just the costs but ask in advance to be sure. For a National List of Lemon Law Lawyers, look at this website page: http://ohiolemonlaw.com/locate-a-local-attorney.html or call your local Attorney Bar Association.
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