Buying a new car in Pennsylvania is an investment, so consumers expect their new vehicle to be reasonably functional and safe. Unfortunately, some dealerships and manufacturers sell “lemons” or cars with severe manufacturing issues that affect their value and safety. As a result, all states, including Pennsylvania, have lemon laws that even the playing field for consumers seeking compensation from major vehicle manufacturers and dealers.
Each state has its variation of lemon laws in addition to the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which was designed to protect consumers. However, if you find yourself in Pennsylvania with a lemon car or truck, you’ll need to understand the Pennsylvania Lemon Law and obtain legal services to deal with your defective vehicle.
While some vehicle manufacturers will quickly accommodate a consumer lemon law claim, others will fight the matter in court to save money. J.P. Ward & Associates is a local Pennsylvania law firm with ample experience dealing with the state’s lemon law, both in and out of the courtroom. Our team can help you understand your consumer rights for a favorable outcome with your defective vehicle.
Many laws exist to help consumers pursue legal means against dealers after buying a defective vehicle. A state’s lemon laws will explicitly outline the best way its residents can receive compensation from a manufacturer who breached their written warranty.
The law creates a clear path for consumers who need to seek legal means to get compensation. The law also states that consumers can obtain additional relief by authorizing the losing party to pay the consumer’s lawyers fees, significantly reducing or eliminating their out-of-pocket legal expenses.
Pennsylvania Lemon Law applies to any vehicle purchase or lease registered in Pennsylvania and out-of-state vehicle purchases or leases with first-time registration in the state. The vehicles must be for personal, family, our household use for transporting up to 15 people. However, the lemon law does not work for motor homes, off-road vehicles, or motorcycles.
The state’s lemon law protects consumers from buying or leasing new vehicles with defects that substantially impair their function, safety, and value. According to the Pennsylvania Lemon Law, the manufacturer must address the car or truck’s problems as long as they fall under the original manufacturer’s warranty. The purchaser must report the issue within 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.
The Pennsylvania lemon law defines “purchaser” as the consumer who has ownership of the vehicle by purchase or transfer or someone with a contract to purchase a new car for personal, family, or household use. If filing a lemon law claim, the purchaser must maintain ownership and possession of the defective vehicle.
Anyone who buys or leases a car in Pennsylvania and registers the motor vehicle with the state has lemon law protections. According to the law’s statute, a car can be a lemon if it:
As of December 1, 2002, the Pennsylvania Lemon Law applies to leased cars and purchased vehicles. The 2002 law amendment also requires Pennsylvania dealers to tell potential buyers about repurchased used vehicles that were lemon buybacks.
After February 11, 2002, all vehicles leased in Pennsylvania have protections under the state’s lemon law. Vehicles leased before that date have no lemon law coverage. However, purchasers can seek compensation for faulty vehicles under the Federal Warranty Act.
Though lemon laws provide consumer protections, they do not cover all manner of damages. In Pennsylvania, the law only applies under specific conditions. For instance, an issue that is the direct result of the owner’s negligence will not receive lemon law protections.
Other problems the law will not cover are:
Nonconformities that come from vandalism, accidents, or acts of god
Minor problems that don’t substantially impair the vehicle’s value, safety, or use
Faulty repairs or alterations by anyone other than the manufacturer or authorized dealer
Pennsylvania’s Lemon Law does not explicitly state what type of damage or defect qualifies for lemon law protections. If the claim goes to court, the judge, jury, or arbitrator will determine if the vehicle’s issue falls under the essential qualification as one that substantially reduces the car or truck’s use, safety, or market value.
If you believe you have a viable lemon law case in Pennsylvania, you must immediately report it to the manufacturer or dealer. The quicker you identify the problem, the faster you can alert the manufacturer and receive compensation.
One of the best practices to use when buying or leasing a new car is to thoroughly document every interaction with the dealership and maintain organized records of all service receipts. Be sure to collect dated printouts from the dealer whenever you take the vehicle in for service.
The documentation should include an overview of the problem, charges for parts or labor, and the odometer reading at the time of service. Keeping detailed records will make it easier to identify defects and have the necessary paper trail to begin building a lemon law claim. You have a right under Pennsylvania law to receive detailed service statements for your car.
If you suspect you have a lemon car, it’s necessary to understand your rights under Pennsylvania law so that you can plan the next course of action. Under Pennsylvania’s Lemon Law, you, as a consumer, have the right to:
If your vehicle has a substantial defect, you may not enact your lemon law rights as a consumer until you give the manufacturer adequate time to repair it. In most cases, the dealer has three attempts to fix the issue. If the car remains defective after three repair attempts, then the vehicle will be a lemon.
The one-year or 12,000 miles lemon law period does not require consumers to service their vehicle three times at the dealership. You must report the defect at least once during that period. So, if you make your report within the Pennsylvania Lemon Law period but continue receiving service for the same issue outside the timeframe, you may still have a valid claim.
It is possible to gain a remedy for a defective car without repair attempts by the dealer. For instance, if the car or truck is off the road for at least 30 days due to a manufacturer defect, you may pursue a lemon law claim.
You may have remedy options if you do not detect manufacturer damages until after the PA Lemon Law cut-off period. As long as the vehicle is still under warranty, you can pursue an automobile breach of warranty claim.
Breach of warranty provides consumer protections to Pennsylvania residents whose vehicles exhibit chronic issues while under the manufacturer’s warranty but do not qualify for lemon law protection. As long as the warranty covers the motor vehicle, the manufacturer must repair all known defects within a reasonable period.
It is not unusual for a Pennsylvania lemon law claim to involve a vehicle defect that does not occur immediately every time the car turns on. Manufacturers and dealers will often claim they cannot fix a flaw that they cannot verify exists.
The Pennsylvania Lemon Law covers situations like these. The purchaser cannot force the dealership to spend additional time and resources diagnosing an intermittent condition with the vehicle.
The consumer’s responsibility is to make a complaint to the dealership within the appropriate period at least once. As long as the complaint goes to the manufacturer, it counts as a repair attempt under the Pennsylvania Lemon Law, even if the dealer makes no physical repair attempts at that time.
A vehicle refund is allowable under Pennsylvania Lemon Law, but you will not receive a full refund. The manufacturer will calculate the refund amount by subtracting a “reasonable allowance for vehicle use” from the vehicle’s purchase price.
A reasonable allowance for vehicle use refers to the odometer reading. When you bring the vehicle to the dealership or manufacturer to repair the defect for the first time, the odometer reading times ten cents a mile is the reasonable allowance.
For instance, if you take your vehicle in for service on a defective alternator and the odometer reads 9000 miles, the reasonable allowance amount will be $900.00. The dealer will deduct that amount from the car’s purchase price if a refund is granted under the state’s lemon law.
Consumers can also receive a refund from the manufacturer for expenses relating to the purchase or lease of the new car. You may receive refunds on:
Vehicle trade-in value
Vehicle modifications by the manufacturer or authorized dealer within 30 days after its delivery date
You may also receive a refund on lemon law filing fees and expert witness fees if the case goes to court. The manufacturer will also be responsible for paying all attorney fees and court costs if you win under the Pennsylvania Lemon Law.
Some purchasers prefer to have a cash settlement and retain ownership of their vehicle. A compensation of that kind is possible but not guaranteed. However, J.P. Ward & Associates can bring the settlement request to the manufacturer on your behalf.
Compensation for a lemon car can also take place as a vehicle replacement under Pennsylvania’s Lemon Law. Though the manufacturer or dealership may offer a new car or truck in place of a refund, you are not obligated to accept the offer. If the manufacturer continues to deny a refund, the next step is to acquire a lawyer and take the matter to court.
When a consumer accepts a replacement for a finance vehicle, the manufacturer is responsible for transferring the original car’s financing to the replacement vehicle. However, it is the consumer’s responsibility to transfer the title and registration to the new car.
Sometimes the manufacturer or dealership successfully repairs the defect or fixes the issue enough, so it does not pose a significant risk to the vehicle’s value, safety, or use. The purchaser may be comfortable retaining ownership of the car since it no longer poses a safety hazard.
Under the Pennsylvania Lemon Law, the consumer could still receive a substantial monetary award if the repairs occurred during the allotted time for lemon law claims. They may also receive the award if the manufacturer exhausted the maximum repair attempts to fix the vehicle.
With that situation, the vehicle will not be named a lemon on its title. The case and settlement will not receive a mention on car history sites that would otherwise disclose the vehicle’s defect and repair history.
The Pennsylvania Lemon Law process can take as little as 30 days to give consumers a satisfying resolution. Unfortunately, some dealers and manufacturers prefer not to adhere to the law. They do not provide the necessary remedies consumers are entitled to after purchasing or leasing a substantially defective vehicle.
J.P. Ward & Associates will make every attempt to settle your Pennsylvania Lemon Law claim directly with the manufacturer. However, if the parties cannot reach a satisfactory resolution, we will file a suit against them and take the matter to court. At that point, settling the claim could take several months.
If a purchaser suspects their vehicle has a defect and needs repair, under the Pennsylvania Lemon Law, the purchaser must deliver the car to a manufacturer-authorized repair facility. The only exception to the rule is if the damage is severe enough to be unreasonable to transport the vehicle.
If the purchaser cannot move the car because of the defect, they must contact the manufacturer or the repair center in writing. The written statement acts as a notice of delivery, and the manufacturer must make transportation arrangements to deliver the vehicle to a repair facility at no expense to the consumer.
If a service attempt occurs, the manufacturer or dealer must provide the purchaser with a detailed statement with itemized repairs. The report should include:
Preparing a Pennsylvania Lemon Law claim is all about details. The more you have, the more prepared you will be if the case goes to court. Besides retaining all repair invoices and documenting every interaction with the manufacturer or authorized dealer, you can also gather evidence about the defect.
Because many vehicle defects are not easily identifiable by dealerships if they occasionally occur, it helps to gather as much information as possible about the problem to present to the authorized repair facility or manufacturer. Notes about the car’s performance, unusual sounds, smells, and other symptoms that point to a potential defect will help the repair tech diagnose and repair the problem.
Before seeking repairs under the Pennsylvania Lemon Law, consider:
If the manufacturer cannot repair the defect within a reasonable time, you may seek other remedies, including a refund or replacement vehicle. To initiate the claim:
Contact the manufacturer’s representative for your location by telephone. You may find the contact information on the vehicle’s owner manual.
Attempt to remedy the defect with the zone representative. If no resolution is present, you can request an arbitration of your case through the dealer’s dispute department if one is present.
If the manufacturer doesn’t have a sufficient dispute resolution process, you can take legal action to resolve the issue.
Manufacturers with a dispute settlement program are bound to the arbitration decision. However, if the consumer is unsatisfied, they can take additional action through a private lawsuit.
If you have a potential Pennsylvania Lemon Law case, you may consider representing yourself during the court proceedings, but that may not be the best step to take. Lemon laws are in place to protect consumers. Attending court without legal representation could lead to a long fight with a manufacturer who would rather waste time and resources in the hopes you will give up.
J.P. Ward & Associates has a firm understanding of Pennsylvania auto laws, including its lemon law. Our team has years of experience working with thousands of Pennsylvanians. As counsel on your lemon law case, we will guide you through every aspect of your case, from start to finish.
If you need a prompt resolution to a Pennsylvania Lemon Law case, do not hesitate to reach out to the auto law attorneys at J.P. Ward & Associates. We are happy to assist you during this frustrating ordeal.