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The Montana Lemon Law

The Montana lemon law protects Montanans who own or lease motor vehicles that develop serious defects.

Does the MT Lemon Law Protect All New Vehicles?

The lemon law in Montana covers purchased or leased vehicles for up to 24 months or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Important note: If you report the defect in writing to the manufacturer or dealer before the coverage period ends, coverage can be extended for up to a year if the defect has not been fixed by the expiration date of the coverage.

Cars, SUVs, and trucks under 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW) are all covered by the law. It also covers the chassis and drivetrain of motorhomes (recreational vehicles, or RVs), but does not cover the living quarters of the motorhome.

The vehicle must be used for personal, family or household purposes. If it was purchased for business use, it's not covered by the Montana lemon law.

Motorcycles, non-motorized and off-road vehicles are not covered. And any defects arising from abuse, an accident, neglect, or unauthorized modification of the vehicle are not covered by the law.

The defect must still exist after three repair attempts by the manufacturer or dealer, or the vehicle must have been out of service because of the defect for a total of 30 business days or more for any number of defects. The defect must substantially impair your use of or the safety of the vehicle, or substantially reduce its market value.

I Have a Montana Lemon. Where Do I Start?

If your vehicle meets the criteria listed above, collect and photocopy all your documentation, including...

  • purchase or lease documents

  • maintenance records

  • repair orders and work invoices

  • receipts for any maintenance supplies you purchased

  • all documents relating to the defect

Write to the manufacturer, outlining the problem and stating that the defect still exists after three repair attempts. Also notify them of their need to fix the problem on a fourth repair attempt.

Send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, and include copies of all the documents noted above. Remember to photocopy your letter and keep that copy for your records.

Arbitration and Law Suits

The Montana lemon law requires that you use the manufacturer's or a third-party's informal dispute resolution procedure, if one is available, before you can use the lemon law. The procedure must be certified by Montana's Department of Commerce.

If no certified procedure is available, you can bring your complaint before a state arbitration panel. You select one member of the panel. The manufacturer selects another member. The third is selected by mutual agreement between you and the manufacturer.

The panel will then hold an arbitration hearing to determine if compensation is due, and what the compensation will be.

If you disagree with the ruling of the informal dispute resolution procedure, or the state arbitration panel, you can file an appeal with the courts. If you do, I recommend that you consult with a lemon law attorney, a lawyer experienced with the Montana lemon law. If the court rules against you, you could be required to pay the manufacturer's costs and attorney's fees.

A lemon law lawyer will likely tell you if s/he thinks you have a winnable case before s/he takes it, since many take payment out of the award you receive.

Refund or Replacement?

The manufacturer has the option of replacing your lemon with a vehicle of the same make and model, and equal value, if possible. If the same make and model is not available, then a comparable vehicle must be offered.

Or the manufacturer can refund your full contract purchase price, plus collateral charges (sales tax, license and registration fees, etc.) and any incidental fees (e.g., towing, rental car fees directly related to the defect). The manufacturer can deduct a reasonable use fee based on the purchase price and how many miles you drove the vehicle before receiving the refund.

Montana Lemon Law Summary

The lemon law in Montana protects those who purchase or lease vehicles that develop defects. When you reach the three repair attempt/30 business days out of service threshold, write to the manufacturer, demanding a replacement or refund if they cannot fix the defect with a fourth repair attempt.

Use the manufacturer's state-certified dispute resolution system, or if none is available, a state arbitration panel to present your case. If you win, you'll be entitled to a replacement of comparable value, or a full refund less a reasonable use fee.

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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