When a Lemon Law Can’t Help You

Posted by sally on March 29th, 2012

Thanks to our friends at Console & Hollawell for this guest blog post.

Ineligible Car Defects

Lemon law regulations don’t cover all vehicle defects – only defects that affect the vehicle’s market value or safety, or that substantially impair use. Additionally, if you believe auto-accident injuries you sustained are the result of manufacturer defect, seeking the services of skilled car accident attorneys in Cherry Hill is essential to uphold your rights.

Laws also assume a manufacturer has a reasonable amount of time – usually 30 days – to repair the vehicle before you can invoke your state’s lemon law. Even if the manufacturer can’t repair the vehicle, the company has the option of providing you with a new car or refunding the purchase price. If the manufacturer selects the latter, you’re going without wheels.

Buyer’s Remorse

Simply hating your new car purchase or wishing you hadn’t spent so much money isn’t a valid reason to invoke a state lemon law. What you’re experiencing is buyer’s remorse. While most states have laws providing consumers with a 72-hour window to return product purchases, automobiles are usually exempt from those rules. Accepting your vehicle as a return is at the discretion of the dealership and most don’t want to retake the inventory. Your best hope is to keep the car in good condition and trade in the vehicle at a later date. Don’t crash your vehicle as a means to get rid of it. You may sustain serious injuries and destroy your vehicle, leaving you with an auto loan to repay and no car.

Mileage Limits

Once your vehicle passes a certain mileage limit, lemon laws in your state no longer apply. For example, in Pennsylvania, any mechanical problem occurring with a vehicle after you drive it 12,000 miles falls under normal wear and tear. Vehicle repairs under state lemon laws can occur after the 12,000-mile benchmark as long as the problem occurred before the benchmark expired.

Used Cars

If you bought a used car, some state’s lemon laws can help you with inherited defects, but other states don’t have used car lemon laws. When that’s the case, you can file a claim under an existing warranty if your vehicle has any coverage remaining. Otherwise, you should assume you’re accepting the vehicle in an “as is” condition. Have a prospective car purchase thoroughly examined by a trusted mechanic before you spend any money.

Suffering injuries in a car accident caused by manufacturer negligence may entitle you to seek damages from the automaker. Compensation can help you replace lost income or pay rising medical costs relating to your injuries and continuing medical care.

Important Lessons about Buying a Used Car

Posted by sally on March 29th, 2012

The Hartford Courant ran a great story about a local FOX News investigation into a young woman’s bad experience in buying a used car. The 18-year-old purchased a 1996 Corsica for around $1,000, only to find that it wasn’t road-worthy. Although the vehicle failed its Massachusetts state inspection, and although the used car dealer had 17 DMV complaints filed against him, he’s still in business. He did, however, refund the buyer’s money.

The article also has excellent tips on what to do when considering the purchase of a used car, including checking the vehicle’s history, having a mechanic check it out, researching the car’s value, and asking for service records.

Car Dealerships and VIN Etching

Posted by sally on March 24th, 2012

Over the past two days, we’ve discussed Vehicle Identification Numbers and the practice of VIN etching. VIN etching uses an acidic paste and a stencil in order to etch the Vehicle Identification Number onto a car’s windshield and windows. The value of VIN etching as a theft deterrent doesn’t appear to be backed up by statistics, but car dealerships routinely incorporate fees for VIN etching into new car purchases. Conceivably, charging customers for this is a way to increase car dealers’ profits at the time of the sale.

Car dealerships handle VIN etching in a number of different ways. For example, a car dealer might offer it as an option, similar to a car alarm, and charge for it. Alternately, a car dealer might include it as a line item on the bill of sale, implying that VIN etching is required. When this happens, only the savviest consumers understand that they can opt-out. In fact, ConsumerReports.org lists VIN etching in “Buying Unnecessary Extras” under their “10 Common Car-Buying Mistakes.” [LINK TO http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/car-buying-advice/guide-to-new-car-buying/at-the-dealership/common-car-buying-mistakes/index.htm ]. ConsumerReports.org says, “If you decide you want VIN etching, you can buy a kit to do it yourself for less than $25, instead of the $200 that some dealerships charge.”

Other times, however, a car dealership might disguise VIN etching as a warranty. That is alleged in the class action lawsuit, Seekamp vs. It’s Huge, Inc. (U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York, Case No. 09-cv-00018-LEK-DRH). The suit alleges that Fuccillo Hyundai in Schenectady, New York, sold Seekamp a $295 warranty for VIN etching service. Allegedly, Seekamp was told that, if her vehicle was stolen and then judged to be unrecoverable or a total loss, the warranty would provide her with $2,000 toward buying a replacement car. Seekamp says that she was told that all of the dealership’s vehicles come with VIN etching, and that she was required to purchase the warranty as part of the sale.

The class action lawsuit makes the argument that the New York State Insurance Department considers these services to be insurance policies, and that the law says sellers must be licensed to sell insurance in New York. The car dealership allegedly sold the insurance through a company that wasn’t licensed to sell insurance in New York, and that to get around this law, the dealership told buyers that the service was a “warranty.” For more information about the class action, visit http://lemberglaw.com/class-action-fraud.php.

Does VIN Etching Prevent Auto Theft?

Posted by sally on March 23rd, 2012

Yesterday, we discussed the Vehicle Identification Number, which is like your car’s unique fingerprint. It’s the number that is used by everyone from car manufacturers to insurers to law enforcement to track your vehicle. The VIN is visible through the driver’s side windshield, and is mandated to be included on 18 different parts of a motor vehicle. We also touched upon VIN etching, where a vehicle’s VIN is etched onto the windshield and/or windows. The practice of VIN etching begs the question….Why? Today we’ll explore the possible explanations.

The primary rationale for VIN etching is that it is a theft deterrent. When a car is stolen, it’s typically “chopped” in order to sell its component parts. Proponents of VIN etching say that a vehicle’s windshield and window are valuable, and that VIN etching makes these parts less profitable to a potential thief, who will (in theory) instead steal a vehicle without VIN etching.

This is a bit counterintuitive. First, VIN etching isn’t particularly eye-catching, and it seems farfetched that a thief would immediately look for – or be able to see – VIN etching (particularly at night). He may see a large decal that announces that the car has VIN etching and then avoid stealing it; if that’s the case, it may be more valuable to have a decal than the actual etching.

Second, it makes more sense that other strategies would be more effective in deterring car theft. For example, there is an array of common sense behaviors (don’t leave your keys in the ignition; park near the entrance of your destination, where foot traffic will be higher; don’t leave valuables in plain sight; lock your car; park in a garage) that take your car out of contention as an easy target. There are also myriad devices you can use, such as car alarms, steering wheel locks, smart keys, and hidden switches. And, of course, you can always stick on ominous sounding decals that would make a would-be thief think twice.

In addition, there don’t seem to be any statistics to back up the claim that vehicles with VIN etching are stolen less often than other types of auto theft deterrence.

A secondary rationale is that having VIN etching reduces your insurance premiums. It appears that some insurers do offer a discount in some states. However, several consumers on online discussion boards reported that the savings was six dollars over six months. Others reported that their insurance companies said that the consumers already had the maximum discounts allowable, and that VIN etching wouldn’t provide additional savings.

If VIN etching is of questionable value, why do car dealerships promote the practice? While some state laws mandate that car dealers provide the service, no state mandates that consumers purchase it. It appears that, although do-it-yourself kits VIN etching kits are readily available starting at twenty dollars, dealers often charge between $100 and $300 for the service. Sometimes car dealerships sell VIN etching as a warranty, saying that the buyer will receive a discount if the vehicle is stolen and deemed a total loss, although it can be argued that the offer is essentially an insurance service. Seekamp vs. It’s Huge, Inc. (U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York, Case No. 09-cv-00018-LEK-DRH) is a class action lawsuit that alleges that Fuccillo Automotive Group and Universal Automotive Services knew that the sale of VIN etching “insurance” was deceptive. For more information about the class action, visit http://lemberglaw.com/class-action-fraud.php.

Tomorrow, we’ll delve into greater detail about car dealerships and VIN etching.

Vehicle Identification Numbers and VIN Etching: What You Need to Know

Posted by sally on March 22nd, 2012

Although there are millions of cars out on the road, few car owners have heard of VIN etching. But, first things first. A VIN is a Vehicle Identification Number, and is essentially the “social security number” of your vehicle. The unique 17-character code follows your car throughout its life, and is typically noted on your vehicle registration, bill of sale, accident reports, and repair invoices. If you’re in the market for a used car and want to learn about its ownership and repair history, you use the VIN to research the car with a service like CARFAX.

A VIN is required under regulations administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA’s rationale is that a VIN is important for identifying vehicles that may be subject to recalls because of automotive defects. The Vehicle Identification Number is also used by law enforcement to identify stolen and recovered vehicles, and by insurance companies to identify the vehicles they are insuring.

According to NHTSA regulations, the VIN must be visible “through the vehicle’s glazing from the outside when the observer is adjacent to the left windshield pillar.” That’s a complicated way of saying that you need to be able to see the VIN when you peer through the driver’s side front windshield. If you look through yours, chances are good that you’ll see a narrow strip with the 17-character VIN. The NHTSA also says that the VIN needs to be on a certification label (usually on the edge of the driver’s door). The Theft Prevention Standard, which was part of the Anti Car Theft Act of 1992, says that the VIN must be included on the following 18 parts of a motor vehicle:

1. Engine
2. Transmission
3. Right front fender
4. Left front fender
5. Hood
6. Right front door
7. Left front door
8. Right rear door (if present)
9. Left rear door (if present)
10. Sliding or cargo door(s)
11. Front bumper
12. Rear bumper
13. Right rear quarter panel (passenger cars)
14. Left rear quarter panel (passenger cars)
15. Right side assembly (multi-purpose vehicles)
16. Left side assembly (multi-purpose vehicles)
17. Pickup box and/or cargo box (light duty trucks)
18. Rear door(s), decklid, tailgate, or hatchback

With a thorough understanding of Vehicle Identification Numbers and where they are located, it’s time to delve into VIN etching. VIN etching is a process whereby a car’s VIN is essentially engraved into the vehicle’s windshield and windows. While there are do-it-yourself kits on the market, controversy arises over the practice of car dealerships forcing customers to pay for a VIN etching service when they buy new cars. Sometimes car dealerships sell VIN etching as a warranty, saying that the buyer will receive a discount if the vehicle is stolen and deemed a total loss, although it can be argued that it is essentially an insurance service. Seekamp vs. It’s Huge, Inc. (U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York, Case No. 09-cv-00018-LEK-DRH) is a class action lawsuit that alleges that Fuccillo Automotive Group and Universal Automotive Services knew that the sale of VIN etching “insurance” was deceptive. For more information about the class action, visit http://lemberglaw.com/class-action-fraud.php.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss why proponents say that VIN etching is valuable.