New Car Lemon Law in Alabama
It can happen to you: you test drive a car and everything seems fine, so you pay your down payment and sign a contract and drive your new vehicle home. The next day it breaks down on you. You’ve been sold a Lemon. What do you do?
First, let’s clarify something really important: the actual “Lemon Law” only applies to new vehicles. If you bought a used car and it turns out to be a piece of junk, you MAY have a claim for breach of warranty, fraud, or breach of contract, but you don’t have Lemon Law rights.
Alabama’s Lemon Law is Ala. Code 8-20A-1, et seq. And what the lemon law essentially says is this: if you buy a new vehicle that has mechanical problems, you don’t have to spend years driving an unsafe car while they try to fix it. If you’ve given them a reasonable opportunity to fix the vehicle and it still doesn’t work, then they have to give you a new vehicle OR a full refund.
More specifically, the law says that a vehicle which does not conform to the express warranties of the manufacturer must be fixed if you notify them of the defect within a year of buying the vehicle OR before it gets 12,000 miles on it, whichever is first.
So here’s how you exercise those rights.
1. Notify the Manufacturer and Dealer.
First, if you have a new vehicle with a major defect, you need to notify the manufacturer. Most warranties require you to take the vehicle to an authorized dealer for repairs.
If they fix it, great. If not, then you should give them a second chance to fix it.
2. Give them some time to fix it (but not too much time!)
If they’ve made 3 repair attempts and it still isn’t fixed, then the law presumes the vehicle is a lemon.
If the vehicle has been in the shop for more than 30 days (if you add up all the repair attempts), then the law presumes it is a lemon.
Once you’ve given them either 3 tries or 30 days of shop time to fix the vehicle and it the defect still exists, it is time to exercise your lemon law rights.
3. Send a Certified Mail Demand for Repair to the Manufacturer
Yes, even after they’ve had 3 tries and 30 days to fix the vehicle, you have to give the Manufacturer (NOT the dealer!) one last chance to fix it. It is a lot like Little Bunny Foo-Foo. They have 7 days to write you back with a recommended repair facility.
4. Give them one last chance.
They have 14 days to fix it in their last chance at repair. If they don’t then they have to give you a new vehicle.
5. Demand a New Vehicle or Full Refund.
If their last chance didn’t fix it, they have to give you a new vehicle of similar model or a full refund. The refund has to include all taxes, finance charges, and other fees.
6. Sue the Manufacturer.
If they refuse to give you a new vehicle or full refund, then you can take them to court to force them to give you a new vehicle, compensate you for all damages, and pay your attorney’s fees.
BEWARE THE 2 year/24,000 mile deadline!
Finally, you need to know that steps 1 through 5 have to occur within 2 years of you obtaining the vehicle or 24,000 miles on the odometer. If it is a defect that can lay hidden for a few months before resurfacing, then you have to be very persistent in demanding your repairs. DO NOT WAIT. If something is wrong, take action immediately and don’t try and see how long you can live with it.