Lemon Laws offer New Car Buyers Sweet Protection

June 26, 2017

Minnesota Lemon Laws

Paying a hefty price for a new vehicle only to discover that it doesn’t live up to promised standards can be frustrating. Fortunately for consumers, all states have a lemon law in place to help those who purchase new cars with unfixable flaws. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) reminds consumers that such laws are there to help them resolve their issues with most manufacturers when vehicles don’t meet performance and safety standards.

What’s covered:

Minnesota’s Lemon Law applies to new vehicles that are driven at least 40% of the time for personal use. The law covers pickup trucks and vans, as well as used vehicles still under the original manufacturer’s warranty. The first report of a defect must occur within the warranty period, or two years, whichever comes first. The defect must also be major enough that it “substantially impairs the use and value of the vehicle.” Examples of such defects would be:

■ Engine knocking/noise

■ Failure to stay in alignment

■ Overheating

■ Sunroof/Moonroof leakage issues

It should be noted that these are just examples. Other flaws could also qualify the vehicle as a lemon. Small problems like cosmetic defects, a bad radio or a faulty air conditioner may not be covered. Dealers, however, are required to honor warranties for such issues. Also worth noting: To qualify for the lemon law, the problem cannot be the result of abuse, neglect or unauthorized modifications by the consumer.

Lemon laws also state that a reasonable number of attempts to fix existing problems must first be made before a car is covered. Under Minnesota’s law, cars fit the lemon category if:

■ There have been four unsuccessful attempts made to repair the same problem

■ The vehicle has been out of service at least 30 days during the warranty period, due to a warrantable repair.

■ At least one repair attempt for safety issues, such as the failure of steering or braking systems, has been made.

The Lemon Law has Minnesota roots. In 1975, prior to the enactment of the Minnesota Lemon Law, BBB of Minnesota entered into a consent pilot program with General Motors, the first of its kind in the nation. The program was to offer consumers that purchased new cars – which were still under warranty – relief from vehicles they alleged had defects which could not be fixed. The program would keep the issue out of the court system and offer an opportunity to use BBB alternative dispute resolution services in the form of arbitration. Trained, neutral arbitrators were able to award remedies such as replacement, repurchase, repair or denial of the claim.

Nationally, BBB still offers this free arbitration program – called BBB Auto Line - with General Motors and many other car manufacturers. Visit bbb.org/autoline/bbb-auto-line-process/participating-auto-manufacturers/ for a list of participating manufacturers.

What you will need

Consumers are advised to keep all paperwork involved in every repair made to the vehicle in question. Here is what should be documented:

■ Phone calls and trips to the dealership, repair department and manufacturer

■ Dates and reasons for each visit

■ Defects with the vehicle and what attempts to repair were made

■ Expenses you have had to pay

■ Towing receipts

To ensure a smooth process with Auto Line you will need the vehicle identification number, make, model and year of the vehicle and the current mileage. If you have questions about our Auto Line program, visit bbb.org/autoline.