The Rhode Island Lemon Law
The Rhode Island lemon law was created to protect you if you buy a new vehicle that turns out to have a serious defect.
Which Vehicles Does the RI Lemon Law Cover?
The lemon law in Rhode Island covers new purchased or leased cars, trucks and vans weighing less than 10,000 pounds. Your vehicle is covered for one year from the date of delivery, or 15,000 miles, whichever comes first.
The defect must substantially impair your use of or the safety of the vehicle, or substantially reduce its market value.
The defect is not covered under the law if it's the result of abuse, neglect or any unauthorized repairs or modifications.
The dealer or manufacturer must also have performed at least four repair attempts for the vehicle to be classified as a lemon. Alternatively, if the vehicle is out of service due to repairs for a total of 30 days for any number and type of repairs, it's considered a lemon.
I Think I Have a Rhode Island Lemon. Now What?
If your vehicle meets the criteria noted above, it's time to tell the manufacturer.
Collect all your notes, service orders and work invoices for each repair, plus all other supporting documentation. Photocopy everything. Then write a letter to the manufacturer, stating that your car is a lemon, and outlining each repair. Remember to photocopy your letter and keep that copy for your records. Include all your photocopies and send the letter by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested.
The manufacturer is entitled to one additional repair attempt after learning that you consider the vehicle to be a lemon. It has seven calendar days in which to make the repair. If the attempt does not cure the defect, or the manufacturer does not make the repair attempt within seven days, you can proceed with your lemon law claim.
Settling Your Dispute
If the manufacturer has or uses an informal dispute settlement/resolution procedure, you are required to use it before you can file any law suit. The decision is binding upon the manufacturer, but not upon you.
If you disagree with the decision, you are then entitled to file suit against the manufacturer. Also, if the manufacturer does not live up to the requirements of the decision (it has 30 days) to refund or replace your vehicle, you can proceed with a law suit.
If you decide to go to court, I recommend that you consult a lemon law attorney, a lawyer experienced with the Rhode Island lemon law. If you win, your lemon law lawyer's fees will be awarded to you in addition to any damages. You have three years from the original delivery date to file your claim, or two years from the time that the mileage reaches 15,000 miles, whichever is earlier.
Refund or Replacement?
The Rhode Island lemon law allows you to choose which option you want.
If you choose the replacement, the manufacturer has 30 days to supply a new one, after you return the lemon vehicle. This means that you could be without transportation for up to 30 days. You're also entitled to reimbursement of transfer of registration fees, and sales taxes, if any were incurred. If you financed through the manufacturer, any new financing agreement cannot have worse terms than the original financing.
If you choose a refund, you will receive the full purchase price, including dealer-installed options that can't be removed, registration fees and sales tax, and financing charges.
The manufacturer is entitled to deduct a reasonable use fee based on the number of miles you put on the lemon vehicle before reporting the first instance of the defect. This is a very good reason for reporting each defect, no matter how small, as soon as you detect it.
If you financed the vehicle, the lien holder will be paid first, with you receiving any balance. If you leased the vehicle, you'll be reimbursed for the actual payments you made, and the lessor will be paid the balance.
Whether you choose a replacement or refund, if you had to pay for towing or rental costs due to the defect, the manufacturer must reimburse you for those as well (so be sure to keep all receipts!).
Rhode Island Lemon Law Summary
The lemon law in Rhode Island allows you to demand a refund or replacement for a defective vehicle if it meets certain criteria. Once you've had four repair attempts, or once you reach the 30 day threshold, start your claim by writing to the manufacturer.
Report to the dealer each occurrence of the defect as soon as it occurs, especially the first one, since a deduction based on miles driven can be reduced with fewer miles on the odometer.
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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