a young adult moving out into the "cold, cruel world," the automotive
industry has practically tattooed a bull's eye on your forehead. Frequently,
young adults have problems with buying a car simply because they don't understand
what they are getting into. However, there is some hope if you plan ahead and
understand the complexities of what to do if problems arise later with the vehicle.
In Washington State there is a Lemon Law for new (and some nearly new) motor vehicles. This law (RCW 19.118.031) simply states that an owner of a vehicle that has substantial and continuing problems with warranty repairs is entitled to an arbitration hearing through the Attorney General's Office free of charge.
Be aware, that not all vehicles are eligible. According to the Washington State Attorney General, "an owner can request an arbitration hearing under Lemon Law at anytime within 30 months of the original retail delivery date." You do not have to be the original owner to request arbitration, if you request it within two years of the delivery date to the original owner and during the first 24,000 miles of operation. The request must still be made within 30 months of the original delivery date regardless of how may times the car has been sold.
Some vehicles are not covered at all. If your vehicle does not meet the criteria below, an arbitration hearing will not be granted:
• Trucks over 19,000 pounds gross weight
• Motor homes with defects only in the dwellings, office, or commercial space
• Vehicles purchased or leased by a business as part of a fleet of 10 or more
• Motorcycles with engine displacements of fewer than 750 cubic centimeters, however, if your motorcycle has a larger engine it could be covered
According to Paul Corning, the Administrator of the Washington State Lemon Law Administration, all states have some form of vehicle warranty enforcement law. "Most states have a Lemon Law that creates a legal course of action providing the basis for consumers to sue the manufacturer."
An arbitration hearing is meant to be an easier process than a trial hearing. The arbitrator is like a judge in a trial; they will hear both sides of the case and then make a decision based on the evidence. Both parties (the owner and manufacturer) will have a chance to present their cases, may use any documents, witnesses, and other evidence to support their case. Once your case has been accepted for arbitration you will get more information on exact procedures and how to prepare for them.
Keep in mind that all states' rules and regulations are different. To find information about your state's law, check for links provided by the International Association of Lemon Law Administrators (IALLA) at http://www.ialla.net/.