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Here are some tips and information, which address some of the most frequently asked questions regarding used or "pre-owned" automobile warranty rights, sometimes known as "The Lemon Law," and the remedies that are available here in Massachusetts:
The Massachusetts Bar Association's Consumer Advocacy Task Force recommends that consumers visit the following websites containing supplemental information concerning the Massachusetts Lemon Law.
The Massachusetts Consumers' Coalition developed a car purchasing guide, now in its 4th edition of publication. This guide educates consumers on the prevalent issues concerning car purchases, especially the risks of purchasing cars over the internet and other issues related to defective vehicles purchased from private sellers.
The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation created a website dedicated to the state's lemon laws covering new and used vehicles. This site provides useful information concerning vehicle warranties, applicable regulations and downloadable form letters for use in communicating with sellers and/or repair mechanics.
The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office created a repository containing various helpful tips with respect to automobile insurance purchase and coverage in Massachusetts. Here, you will find general explanations of different types of coverage, tips on shopping for insurance, and insurance bulletins concerning recent consumer protection issues related to insurer conduct.
The Lemon Law applies only to used cars, vans, and trucks owned by private individuals. The Lemon Law excludes motorcycles, mopeds and dirt bikes. It also does not apply to off-road vehicles, and the law does not cover leased vehicles or vehicles purchased by, owned by or registered to a business.
All private party sales, whether from an auto dealer or an individual, are covered by the Lemon Law to a certain extent. Every private seller must inform the buyer about any and all known defects which impair safety or substantially impair the use of the vehicle. Failure to inform the buyer of such known defects will allow the buyer to cancel the sale and obtain a refund of the purchase price (less 15 cents per mile for usage).
There are additional provisions that apply to automobile dealers. A dealer is one who sells four or more vehicles in a year. A dealer, like a private individual, must inform the buyer about any and all known defects which impair safety or substantially impair the use of the vehicle. Also, at the time of the sale, the dealer must provide the buyer with an accurate, dated, and signed copy of the warranty protections required by law.
Only defects that impair the vehicle's use or safety are covered. The Lemon Law warranty does not apply to cosmetic or appearance defect. The warranty does not cover what is covered by the manufacturer's warranty. The Lemon Law also does not provide any help to a buyer who has made any changes or attempted any repairs to the vehicle.
Yes. The length or duration of the Lemon Law warranty period depends on the vehicle's mileage at the time of purchase. Vehicles with more than 125,000 miles on the odometer are not covered by the Lemon Law. Those with fewer than 40,000 miles are protected for 90 days or 3,750 miles, whichever comes first. Cars that have a 40,000 to 125,000 history are covered by stepped-down protection.
The Lemon Law has specific provisions if the dealer does not comply with the Lemon Law by not providing the buyer with a correct written warranty, refusing to make required repairs, attempting repairs that do not correct the problem, etc. The dealer's options and the buyer's remedies in such circumstances depend on the facts of each case, and the buyer should seek advice from the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation or the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office or from a private attorney.
A buyer has a right to a refund if the dealer attempts to repair the same defect three times and fails to correct the problemorthe vehicle is out of service for at least 11 business days, not necessarily at one time, during the warranty period.
The dealer has the right to buy the car back instead of making any warranty repairs. Bear in mind that if the dealer offers to make a full refund, and the buyer refuses to accept it, then the dealer will not be obligated to make any further repairs on the vehicle.
If the dealer will not refund the money that is due to the buyer, there are a few options: mediation, arbitration or a lawsuit. If you are considering a any of these options, then you should consult an attorney to discuss your rights including your rights under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 93A.
*These answers do not constitute legal advice and are written for general information purposes only. Individuals should consult with a lawyer for specific legal advice.
If you have any questions concerning these topics or other consumer protection issues, we highly suggest that you contact the Massachusetts Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service. Get an instant online referral here. Or call us to speak to an LRS representative* (Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.) at (617) 654-0400 or (866) 627-7577.