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Did you buy a lemon? Here's what you need to know

You're so excited to have finally traded in that clunker on a new model. So much so that maybe you're a bit intoxicated from that "new car smell." Regardless, you failed to notice some fairly major problems when you took it out for a test drive.

What can you do? The salesperson at the dealership is no longer returning your increasingly-frantic phone calls, and you know that the clock is ticking on your options.

What about the "lemon law?"

If you bought the car new, you're likely covered under the "lemon law." However, what you consider to be a lemon and how the law perceives it may be poles apart.

Virginia does indeed have lemon laws for new vehicles. To be considered a lemon, your new vehicle must not conform to the warranties that significantly affect your car's "use, safety, or market value." You also have a time limit for manufacturer repair of said problems to qualify under the law's terms. Both the lemon law and manufacturer's warranty period end 18 months after you take possession of your new car.

What are the dealership's responsibilities?

If you purchased a true lemon, you have the right to the following remedies:

  • Replacement with a comparable vehicle that is acceptable to you, or
  • A full refund of the vehicle's purchase price, which should include compensation for incidental damages and collateral charges, but minus a reasonable allowance for your use of the vehicle up to the point where you first notified the seller of the nonconformity

In order to qualify under Virginia's lemon law, your car's defect must also have:

  • been attempted to be repaired at least three times
  • a defect that's a serious safety concern and subject to at least one attempt at repair by an authorized dealership, the manufacturer or its agents, to no avail
  • been out-of-service for repairs no fewer than 30 days

As you can probably tell, it's a little more complicated than simply not liking the color of the interior or the way the sunroof catches when it closes.

You should also understand that any attempt by the dealership or the manufacturer to "shine you on" is unacceptable. If that continues to occur, you may need to take the next legal step and file a lawsuit in order to preserve your rights and get satisfaction regarding your purchase of a lemon.

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