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BBB: Protections exist for the car buyer who ends up with a lemon

  • Special to The Eagle
  • Published Friday, July 4, 2014, at 1:16 p.m.

The frustration of paying a hefty price for a new vehicle only to find that it does not live up to the promised standards can be extreme. Fortunately, Kansas, like all states, has a lemon law to help those who purchase new cars with unfixable flaws. Lemon laws hold manufacturers responsible for vehicles that do not meet performance and safety standards.

Here is a look at Kansas’ law protecting new car buyers. The law does not apply to used cars.

What’s covered

Our state’s lemon law applies to new vehicles with a gross weight of 12,000 pounds or less. Since most modern cars weigh between 4,000 and 6,000 pounds, practically all fall within the range. Pickup trucks fit the category as well.

The vehicle must have been purchased within a year of when its defective status is found. The defect must be major enough so that it “substantially impairs the use and value of the vehicle.”

Examples of such defects would be:

•  Stalling in traffic

•  Failure to stay in alignment

•  Overheating

•  Safety concerns

•  Anything that renders the vehicle inoperable

Other flaws also could qualify the vehicle as a lemon.

Small problems like cosmetic defects, a bad radio or a faulty air conditioner are not 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.

A reasonable number of attempts

Under Kansas law the car may fit the lemon category if any one of these occur:

•  Four or more unsuccessful attempts were made to repair the same problem during the warranty period

•  The vehicle was out of service for at least 30 days during the warranty period

•  Ten or more attempts were made to repair various defects during the warranty period

Different manufacturers’ contracts say varying things about how the situation should be handled. Either the vehicle must be replaced, repurchased, or arbitration must begin.

The Better Business Bureau has a free arbitration program called BBB Auto Line that has aided nearly 2 million consumers during the past 30 years. More information is available by calling 800-955-5100 or visiting bbbinc.org and clicking on the “Is your car a lemon?” button. The BBB Auto Line staff can help streamline the arbitration process.

What you will need

Keep all paperwork involved in every repair made to the vehicle in question. Here’s what should be documented:

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

•  Dates and reasons for each visit

•  What is wrong with the vehicle and what attempts to repair were made

•  Time lost from work

•  Expenses paid

•  Towing receipts

For the Auto Line process, you will need the VIN (vehicle identification number), make, model and year of the vehicle and the current mileage.

Hopefully your new car was a sweet deal. But if there is a sour lemon in your garage, be advised that there are steps you can take to put the squeeze on its manufacturer.

Denise Groene is the state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Contact the bureau at 800-856-2417 or bbbinc.org.

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