MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Your calls and emails have revealed some confusion over what our states' motor vehicle warranty laws -- commonly called "lemon laws" -- actually can do for consumers.
First, state lemon laws govern defective new cars, not used cars. Policymakers wrote the laws to protect consumers from manufacturers who build inherently defective new cars. It's difficult, if not a little unfair, to hold manufacturers or dealers accountable for problems with used cars. They've gone through multiple owners and circumstances. The manufacturers have no control over those situations.
Next, most state lemon laws require the same defect to show symptoms multiple times before the consumer can initiate a lemon law claim for either repair or replacement. Nearly all of them are applicable only during the vehicle's expressed manufacturer's warranty period, typically three years/36,000 miles. The law refers to that as the "term of protection."
Here's a breakdown of the Mid-South states' lemon law protections:
* TENNESSEE. A dealership must replace a vehicle that is still under its manufacturer's warranty if "...1. the same non-conformity has been subject to repair three or more times by the manufacturer or its agents or authorized dealers during the term of protection, but the non-conformity continues to exist; or 2. the vehicle is out of service by reason of repair for a cumulative total of 30 or more calendar days during the term of protection." The consumer must also send written notification of the need for replacement, including invoices that prove either the three times or the 30 days, via certified mail directly to the vehicle's manufacturer. Eligible consumers may also be offered a full refund in lieu of a replacement vehicle.
* MISSISSIPPI. The consumer must report the new car's non-conformity either during the expressed warranty coverage or within one year of the original date of purchase. The manufacturer must provide either a full replacement or refund if the same non-conformity has been subject to repair three or more times or the vehicle's been out of service for the same non-conformity for 15 or more working days.
* ARKANSAS. Arkansas' lemon law provides for what's called a Motor Vehicle Quality Assurance Period (MVQAP). That period starts on the date of original delivery of the vehicle and ends either 24 months after that date or after 24,000 miles, whichever comes later. If a consumer reports a non-conformity during the MVQAP to the manufacturer, the manufacturer must correct the non-conformity, even if the repairs don't start until after the MVQAP's expiration. The manufacturer's allowed three attempts to fix a standard non-conformity, but just one attempt on a problem that may cause death or serious injury. If it's still not fixed after those attempts, the consumer must send written notification to the manufacturer via certified or registered mail to give it a final chance to fix it within ten days of receiving that notice. The manufacturer must complete repairs within ten days of when the consumer delivers the vehicle to its approved repair shop.