Auto Dealer Exemption Defeated in Senate Reform Bill

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on May 21st, 2010

The U.S. Senate passed a major financial reform bill last night, but in the end, a major loophole didn’t see the light of day. As we wrote in the LemonJustice blog a couple of days ago, there was a hard push by auto dealers and their lobbyists to exempt auto dealers from oversight by the new Bureau of Consumer Protection. According to the New York Times, the amendment’s sponsor, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) withdrew the amendment at the eleventh hour. This is wonderful news for consumers – particularly service members who are often victims of auto dealer fraud.

Although the Senate version of the bill and the House version of the bill need to be combined (a process that could take several weeks), it appears as though auto dealers will face much-deserved scrutiny by the new consumer protection agency. That’s a victory for hard-working Americans all across the country.

The Finer Points of New York Used Car Laws

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on February 22nd, 2010

When it comes to used car laws, New York lemon laws are among the best in the nation. When you purchase a used car in NY, you not only get a car bill of sale, but you also get what’s known as a lemon law warranty. This warranty can give you the peace of mind you need when you purchase a previously owned vehicle.

While NY lemon laws are fairly straightforward, there are some finer points that consumers sometimes miss. Here are three you should be aware of:

1. Private sales aren’t covered. If you purchase your used vehicle from another individual, your car won’t necessarily be covered by New York lemon law. Only those vehicles purchased from a dealer are included in lemon law coverage. However, the law defines “dealer” fairly broadly, as someone (a person or business) who sells or leases a vehicle after selling or leasing three used cars in the previous 12 months. Cars purchased at retail auto auctions are also covered by NY lemon laws. However, there are certain companies that are excluded from the definition of a dealer, including banks, regulated public utilities, state and local government agencies, and a business that sells a company car to an employee.

2. If you buy from a dealer, you’re covered. If a used car dealer meets the definition of a dealer under New York lemon law, you have the protections of a used car warranty – whether or not the dealer actually gives you the warranty. The law says that you’re covered, and that you can’t waive your rights under New York used car laws. So, if you unknowingly signed a contract containing a clause saying you waive your rights, that clause is null and void.

3. The value of your trade-in may be adjusted. In the case of a lemon buyback, NY lemon laws say that the dealer doesn’t necessarily have to refund the amount listed in your sales contract for your trade-in. Instead, he may use the wholesale value of your vehicle, as determined by the NADA Used Car Guide. If he still has your old vehicle on the lot, he also has the right to return your trade-in in lieu of refunding the money you received from your trade-in. However, you’re still entitled to a refund of the money you paid for the car you purchased.

Although New York offers consumers considerable protection under its lemon law, most people aren’t prepared to go toe-to-toe with dealers when they find they’ve purchased a used car lemon. That’s why you need an attorney by your side who specializes in fighting car dealers and auto manufacturers. If you think you have a used car lemon on your hands, contact LemonJustice.com today. Our attorneys are standing by, ready to help you get the justice you deserve.

Car Warranty Law and New York Lemon Laws

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on February 22nd, 2010

A surprising number of consumers don’t realize that New York has a robust lemon law for used cars. Indeed, if you find you’ve purchased a defective car, you may be eligible to receive a full refund of the purchase price. In large part, this is because New York lemon laws include a car warranty law, sometimes referred to the “lemon law warranty.” Here’s the lowdown on NY lemon laws as they apply to the used car warranty.

The used car warranty outlines that the dealer or his agent will repair any covered problem within the warranty period, and that he won’t charge you for it. The length of the warranty period varies according to the number of miles on the odometer at the time you buy or lease the vehicle. So, if the odometer has a reading of 18,001 to 36,000 miles, the warranty is in effect for 90 days or 4,000 miles. If the odometer has a reading of 36,001 to 79,999, the warranty is in effect for 60 days or 3,000 miles. If the odometer has a reading of 80,000 to 100,000 miles, the warranty is in effect for 30 days or 1,000 miles.

When it comes to the length of the warranty, it’s important to note that the law states that the warranty is extended by one day for every day your car is in the shop for repair. So, for example, if your car is unavailable for three days because it’s being repaired, your 90-day warranty extends to 93 days.

Buying a used car means that you’ll get a warranty, but in some cases the dealer can limit what’s covered. The car warranty law associated with NY lemon laws says that certain parts must be included. So, for example, the engine, transmission, drive axle, brakes, and steering are included, as well as the radiator, alternator, generator, starter, and the ignition system. Other items, such as the battery, are not included.

When it comes to limiting warranty coverage, NY lemon laws say that the dealer can exclude coverage for a variety of reasons. For example, the warranty won’t apply if you don’t perform routine maintenance on the vehicle. That’s why it’s important to not only get the work done, but to also keep thorough records documenting when the work was done and who performed the work. In addition, problems that result from getting in a wreck, theft, or even getting caught in a snowstorm aren’t covered. Neither are things like tune-ups and oil changes.

To determine whether or not your vehicle is covered under warranty law, and whether or not you have a lemon, it’s important to seek professional lemon law advice. The attorneys at LemonJustice.com are standing by to help you navigate the waters of auto defects, and to hold a dealer’s feet to the fire if he sold you a used car lemon.

A Lemon or a Fraud?

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on November 26th, 2008

A new client came to us with what sounded like a rock solid lemon law buyback claim: a brand new 2008 Subaru was out of service for over 30 days, and required replacement of the engine, exhaust, and oil pan. We sent a demand letter to the manufacturer and, a few days later, we received a callback questioning why we had even submitted the demand. Their position? The car had no material defects.

The client sent in his documents, including his sales agreement and service records. The discrepancy was immediately solved. The purchase agreement was from an independent auto dealership and the vehicle had been bought on eBay. The customer had not had the opportunity to test drive the vehicle prior to winning the eBay auction. Thus, his first drive in it was the drive home. He immediately noticed a vibration, which grew increasingly worse as the days passed. He brought the Subaru to three different auto mechanics, including a manufacturer authorized dealership, and all three came back with the same opinion; the vehicle had been in a serious accident and had sustained heavy damage to the front end, as well as to the exhaust.

The exhaust and oil pan were replaced first. The customer informed the seller of the issues with the vehicle and the necessity for the repair, to which the seller voluntarily agreed to pay half of the bill. Soon thereafter, the vehicle was returned for service, which was when the client was told he needed a new engine.

The takeaway? Beware of “new” used cars, and deals that seem too good to be true. If you’re going to buy a used car, do a CARFAX check on the vehicle’s history, take it for a test drive, and have it inspected by a mechanic. If you buy a previously wrecked vehicle and the dealer doesn’t tell you, you may have a cause of action against the dealer, but you don’t have a lemon law claim.

Clip Jobs: Two-for-One Not Much of a Deal

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on November 18th, 2008

The Chicago Tribune recently reported a phenomena that provoked another “What the…?” reaction for us. If you’ve never heard about “clip jobs,” you’re not alone. Say that you’ve been in a bad car crash. You expect your insurance company to pay to either have your car repaired to its pre-crash condition or to declare the car a total loss and pay you the car’s value.

But what if, in their not-so-infinite wisdom, the insurance company decides that the best course of action (or, rather, the cheapest course of action) is to take the part of your car that is still in good shape, find another car of the same make and model with the missing part intact, and put the two pieces together. That’s a clip job.

According to the Tribune, no one really knows how many clip jobs are out there, but State Farm just took a position against them, and the American Insurance Association doesn’t have a position one way or another.

There’s little doubt that a clip job can have dire consequences, in no small part because cars are designed for different systems to work in concert in order to protect the passengers. When different parts of vehicles are fused together, that synchronization is off.

Most vehicle manufacturers take a strong stance against clip jobs, including Chrysler, Ford, Toyota/Lexus, Acura, BMW, GM, Honda, and Jaguar.

If you’re in a major crash, you should be sure to ask the body shop how they’re going to repair your vehicle, and go to the mat with your insurance company to avoid a clip job. If you’re in the market for a used car, make sure to check CARFAX and have a reputable mechanic or body specialist look over the vehicle to verify that it hasn’t been subject to a clip job.