After sorting through financing and features, one of the most satisfying aspects of buying a new car is having safe, reliable, trouble-free transportation, right? Unfortunately for some car-owners, their new vehicles don’t measure up to this most basic requirement.
For these, Connecticut provides a free, user-friendly forum where the vehicle-owner and the manufacturer present their positions to an independent arbitrator, who renders a binding decision based upon the evidence presented. It’s a boon for consumers, who may be rewarded with a refund of the purchase price or a replacement vehicle, if their new vehicle is determined to be a lemon.
“More than 3,000 consumers have taken advantage of this program, and for many, it’s made the difference between having a vehicle that lives up to their expectations, or being stuck with an unreliable headache on wheels,” Consumer protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said. “There’s no reason for any new car owner to be stuck with a lemon in the state of Connecticut.”
To qualify for this free program, the vehicle must meet the following requirements:
- The consumer must have bought or leased the vehicle in Connecticut, and it must have a passenger, combination or motorcycle registration;
- The vehicle’s defect must be covered by the manufacturer’s written warranty;
- The same defect must occur four times within the first 24,000 miles or two years, — whichever first occurs — or the vehicle must be out of service for repairs more than 30 days during the 24,000 miles/two year time period; and,
- The manufacturer must have been given a “reasonable opportunity” to repair the defect (This requirement is met if the vehicle has been in for repair four times, or twice in the first twelve months, for a defect that poses a serious risk of death or bodily injury; however, in some situations, based upon the facts, one repair attempt could be sufficient.)
Even a person living in another state is protected by Connecticut’s Lemon Law if the above criteria are met.
“For anyone thinking that their new vehicle might qualify for the Lemon Law program, start keeping records and notes early on,” Rubenstein said. “It’s very important that you document the defects that occur during the first two years or 24,000 miles that you own the vehicle — whichever comes first.”
Make an appointment and bring your vehicle to the dealer as soon as you notice a defect covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. Don’t put it off or just stop by the shop and complain verbally — get written work orders with your specific problems marked down.
Confirm that the technician understands your vehicle’s problem and keep a written repair history of all your repair visits. The law says that four repair visits for the same defect is enough opportunity for a vehicle problem to be solved, if it were possible.
If your vehicle qualifies for arbitration through the Lemon Law, you may represent yourself; you do not need an attorney. If you do hire an attorney, you may seek reimbursement for those costs and others, such as modifications or equipment installed after purchase.
Once the hearing has concluded, the arbitrator will render a decision within ten days, and normally the manufacturer must comply with either a refund or replacement vehicle within 30 days following receipt of the decision.
For more details or for help in applying, visit the Department of Consumer Protection website at www.ct.gov/dcp; select “Lemon Law” from the list in the center of the page. You may also contact the program at 1-800-538-CARS (2277) or email: [email protected]
The writer works for the Department of Consumer Protection