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The Massachusetts Lemon Law

The Massachusetts lemon law protects you if there is a serious defect in your new vehicle.

Which Vehicles Are Covered By the MA Lemon Law?

Only new vehicles (purchased or leased) are covered by the lemon law in Massachusetts. This includes cars, pickups, trucks, vans and motorcycles, if they're purchased from a new-car dealer, and if they're for personal use.

You have one year or 15,000 miles from the date of original delivery, whichever comes first. If you bought the car used within the first year or 15,000 miles, the law still covers the vehicle, until the protection expires.

The following are not covered by the lemon law in Massachusetts...

  • motorhomes (recreational vehicles, or RVs)

  • off-road vehicles (all terrrain vehicles, or ATVs)

  • cars and trucks used primarily for business reasons

  • vehicles with defects or problems caused by your negligence or that of an unauthorized repair person or shop, or by vandalism or accidents

The vehicle must have at least three repair attempts within the protection term for the same problem, and the defect must still be present, or recur during the remainder of the protection term. Or the vehicle must be off the road (unavailable for your use due to repair attempts) a total of 15 business days for one or more substantial defects.

The defect or problem must be serious. That means that it must substantially impair your use of or the safety of the vehicle, or substantially decrease the vehicle's market value (you must prove that the market value is at least 10% lower than that of a similar vehicle without the defect).

I Have a Massachusetts Lemon. What Can I Do?

If you haven't already had three repair attempts done, begin the process now. All three attempts must be completed before the one year/15,000 mile deadline.

Keep all notes about the defect, as well as the work invoice for each repair attempt (the dealer or authorized repair facility is required to give you one each time you take your vehicle in for repair). Check that the problem is listed on the invoice or bill.

As soon as you confirm that the third repair didn't fix the problem, or when you've had 15 days without your vehicle, send a letter to the manufacturer's regional office (not to the dealer). This link will take you to the MA government's Manufacturer Address List.

The letter should state that the vehicle is still not fixed after three repair attempts, or that it has been in for repairs for at least 15 business days. Remember to photocopy the letter for your records.

Include photocopies of all your work invoices with your notes and your letter. Send the letter by registered or certified mail, with return receipt requested. The manufacturer then has 7 business days to make one final repair attempt. So it's very important that you know exactly when the manufacturer received the letter.

The notification and the fourth repair attempt can occur after the one year/15,000 mile deadline.

After that repair attempt, or after 7 business days, you may retrieve your vehicle. If the manufacturer declined the fourth repair attempt, or could not fix the defect, you are entitled to a replacement or refund under the Massachusetts lemon law.

If the manufacturer refused to make a repair attempt, you can request mediation or an arbitration hearing.

Which Is Better, Refund or Replacement?

Your two compensation options are a refund of your purchase price, or a replacement. Which is better is only a question you can answer. The information below should make it easier to choose the best option for you...

First, you can refuse a replacement if the one offered to you is not to your satisfaction. You can then request a refund. However, you cannot refuse a refund and then request a replacement vehicle.

If you accept the replacement, the manufacturer must reimburse certain costs to you...

  • fees for the transfer of registration

  • the sales tax owed for the replacement

  • any unreimbursed towing or rental charges you incurred because of the defect

If you financed the original vehicle, you do not have to refinance the replacement if the new agreement would cause any financial obligations beyond those in the first financing agreement.

If you choose the refund, you will receive the full purchase price, including allowances for your trade-in. However, a reasonable deduction will be made for your use of the vehicle until it's returned to the manufacturer.

If you accept the refund, the manufacturer must reimburse you for...

  • the sales tax and registration fees

  • finance charges

  • the unreimbursed and unused portion of credit insurance related to the purchase of the defective vehicle

  • any options added by the dealer prior to delivery

  • unreimbursed towing or rental charges due to the defect

  • the unreimbursed and unused portion of any extended warranty you purchased

  • any incidental costs related to the defect

If you leased the lemon, you will receive a refund of all the lease payments you made, minus a reasonable allowance for your use of the vehicle.

Mediation, Arbitration and Legal Recourse

You have three options if the manufacturer refuses to offer a refund or replacement.

You can sit down with a government mediator and work out a deal. Or you can use a consumer-based mediation process.

The second option is arbitration, which can be state-run or sponsored by the manufacturer. I don't recommend state arbitration, as it's all or nothing. If you lose, you receive no compensation. Arbitration through the manufacturer is usually binding on the manufacturer, but not on you. So you can proceed to a court case if you lose the arbitration hearing.

If you need to go to court, I urge you to consult with a lemon law attorney, a lawyer with experience dealing with lemon law cases in Massachusetts. You can go to court directly after a refusal from the manufacturer (bypassing mediation and arbitration), or after an unsatisfactory arbitration decision.

The manufacturer could be liable to doubled or tripled damages, plus court costs and reasonable attorney fees, if you win, so it's to your advantage to hire a lawyer.

Massachusetts Lemon Law Summary

While the MA lemon law is a little harder to work with than the law in other states, you can still be compensated for your lemon vehicle. Be sure to report any problems as soon as you experience them. Even a small problem could develop into a substantial defect.

The sooner you start, the sooner you'll be rid of your lemon vehicle.

NOTE:The information here is not legal advice and is only presented to you so you can know your options if you purchased a lemon. As with any legal issue, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney.


 

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