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Avoiding a "Lemon" Guidelines

Statutes & Rules
Consumer Sales Practices Act, Utah Code Ann. §13-11
Consumer Sales Practices Act Rules, UT Admin Code R152-11
New Motor Vehicles Warranty Act (Lemon Law), Utah Code Ann. §13-20
New Motor Vehicles Warranty Act Rules (Lemon Law), UT Admin Code R152-20
Recissions/Returns on New Car Purchases
When purchasing a new automobile, please be aware that there is NO three-day rescission law that applies to motor vehicle purchases.  You do NOT have a right to return the vehicle because you regret purchasing it, or have decided it doesn't meet your needs, or you cannot afford it.   Once you purchase the vehicle, you assume responsibility for it.  Some automobile sellers may have policies that allow you to return the vehicle within a certain number of days, but usually you may return the vehicle only for credit towards the purchase of a different vehicle.  Please note that this is a policy set by the seller and is NOT required by law.

If you have a complaint about automobiles in Utah regarding auto theft, odometer fraud, misrepresentation and failure to deliver title, contact the Utah Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division at 210 North 1950 West, Salt Lake City, Utah  84134, Telephone (801)297-2600, or on the web at: http://mved.utah.gov.

Auto Repairs
Auto repairs are a major source of complaints for the Division.  Most auto repair shops want to resolve complaints in a way that they can keep you as a customer.  Therefore, if you have a complaint regarding your auto repairs, contact the shop’s manager first to see if the problem can be resolved without further delay.  If it can’t be resolved, then contact us.  An investigator will be assigned to look for any deceptive practices that may have contributed to the problem.

Some of the things that you can do to protect yourself from deceptive practices are:

  1. Finding an auto repair shop:
    1. Ask for recommendations from friends or family
    2. Make sure the repair shop can do the work you require
    3. Does the repair shop honor vehicle or repair warranties?
    4. Has the Division of Consumer Protection taken legal action against the repair shop? (The Division can provide information about public record action taken against a repair shop, but not whether complaints have been filed against a repair shop)
    5. Are the mechanics certified or otherwise qualified to perform the work?  Factory authorized dealerships or repair facilities often require their mechanics to be certified to work on their brand of vehicle and its components; likewise, ASE offers certification to mechanics as well.  The prices charged by a certified mechanic may be higher than a non-certified mechanic, but at least you know that they have met minimum competencies to perform the work.  Neglecting this certification MAY lead to lower repair costs but more problems if the mechanic is not competent to perform the work.
    6. Be familiar with your car’s Auto Repair Checklist when having your car serviced
  2. Getting an estimate:
    1. Make certain the estimate lists the parts needed AND labor costs.
    2. Make certain the estimate states you will be contacted if work exceeds time limit or 10% of total costs (excluding tax).
    3. Find out if labor is charged at a flat rate or based on the actual amount of time required by the repairs.
    4. Does the repair shop guarantee its work or offer a warranty?  What is included (parts only, parts and labor, etc.)?
    5. Get the shop to put the agreement in writing and obtain a copy of your agreement
  3. After repair work is done:
    1. Get a completed repair order or receipt itemizing each repair, parts replaced, cost of the parts and labor charges including the name or inititials of the mechanic that did the work.
    2. If you want the parts that were replaced, ask for them.
    3. If you're not satisfied with the work that was done, contact the repair shop's manager to try to resolve the problem.  If you can't work it out and you suspect a violation of the laws enforced by the Division, contact the Division to file a complaint.

Utah's "Lemon Law"
Consumers who buy or lease a new automobile or motor home with significant defects that can't be repaired, or in other words consumers who buy a "lemon," can obtain relief under the Utah New Motor Vehicle Warranties Act or "Lemon Law."

The Lemon Law applies to new cars under warranty and was extended in 1990 to also cover new leased vehicles and motor homes.  The Lemon Law does NOT apply to used vehicles.

For your vehicle to qualify as a "lemon" under the Lemon Law, the following criteria must apply:

  • The vehicle must have been purchased in the state of Utah;
  • The vehicle must be new and under warranty;
  • The vehicle must weigh less than 12,000 pounds;
  • The defect must "substantially impair the use, market value or safety of the vehicle";
  • The vehicle must have been to the manufacturer to have the same defect resolved at least four times OR out of service to the consumer a total of 30 days DURING the first year or the warranty period, whichever is less (if your problems occur AFTER this time period, you do NOT qualify for the Utah Lemon Law);
  • The defect cannot be the result of abuse, neglect or unauthorized modifications of the vehicle; AND
  • The consumer must go through any informal dispute settlement or arbitration procedure the manufacturer may have established, as set forth in the warranty manual for your vehicle.

If your vehicle meets ALL of the criteria, your next step is to file a complaint with the Division of Consumer Protection.  Include with your complaint COPIES of any relevant documents, including service records, and arbitration or dispute settlement records.  After your vehicle is determined to be a "lemon", you may qualify for either a replacement or a cash refund.  The manufacturer may charge you a "reasonable" amount for use of the vehicle as prescribed by law, usually 10 to 23 cents per mile.  You can have the Division try to obtain restitution for you, or you can take private action with the help of your own attorney.

Only a small number of vehicles are really "lemons."   However, to avoid "lemon-type" problems, there are some steps you can take to ensure greater satisfaction with your new vehicle purchase.

  • Make sure the vehicle you buy is exactly what you ordered.
    • Check to make sure all options, equipment and accessories you want are included and every service listed has been completed.
    • Check every accessory, piece of listed equipment, and service listed on the window sticker.  According to federal law, the widow sticker must remain with the vehicle until it is delivered to you, the consumer.
    • Check to make sure the receipted bill-of-sale says exactly what you bought.  Compare your bill-of-sale against both the vehicle and the window sticker.
  • Wait for "dealer prep."  New vehicles require checking and varying degrees of service before they are delivered to the purchaser.   Make sure the dealer completes the dealer prep and that the service is listed and marked "paid" on the bill of sale.
  • Do not complete the purchase of the vehicle until a lender has approved credit and financing.
  • Inspect and road test the vehicle.  Drive it on roads you normally drive, with the loads you normally carry.  Have all problems taken care of before you take possession.

Tips From the Federal Trade Commission for Buying a Used Car

  • Check out the car’s repair record, maintenance costs, and safety and mileage ratings in consumer magazines or online.  Look up the "blue book" value, and be prepared to negotiate the price.
  • Buying from a dealer?   Look for the Buyers Guide.   It’s required by a federal regulation called the Used Car Rule.
  • The Used Car Rule generally doesn’t apply to private sales.
  • Warranties are included in the price of the product; service contracts cost extra and are sold separately.
  • Ask for the car’s maintenance record from the owner, dealer, or repair shop.
  • Test-drive the car on hills, highways, and in stop-and-go traffic.
  • Have the car inspected by a mechanic you hire.
  • Check out the dealer with local consumer protection officials.
  • If you buy a car "as is," you’ll have to pay for anything that goes wrong after sale.

For additional information, visit the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/autos.shtm


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