The Vermont Lemon Law
The Vermont lemon law protects you if you buy or lease a defective vehicle that can't be repaired to meet the manufacturer's warranty.
Does the VT Lemon Law Cover My Vehicle?
The lemon law in Vermont covers vehicles weighing less than 12,000 gross vehicle weight, including cars, trucks, SUVs and vans, plus the chassis and drivetrain of motorhomes (recreational vehicles, or RVs). It does not include motorcycles, mopeds, snowmobiles, the living quarters of motorhomes, or tractors.
The vehicle must have been purchased or leased in Vermont, or registered for use in Vermont. You can be the second owner of the vehicle, as long as it's still covered by the warranty. If a business owns the vehicle, it cannot possess more than two registered or leased vehicles.
The vehicle must have been repaired at least three times by the same repair facility, with the first attempt made during the warranty period (the second and later attempts can be after the warranty expires). Or, the vehicle must have been out of service for at least 30 calendar days, with all repair attempts made before the warranty expires.
If you financed the vehicle, you must be up-to-date on all payments to be protected by the Vermont lemon law. If you leased it, all lease payments must be current.
The defect must substantially impair your use of or the safety of the vehicle, or substantially reduce its market value. It cannot be the result of abuse, neglect or unauthorized modifications to the vehicle.
I Own a Vermont Lemon. What's My First Step?
Once you're certain that your vehicle meets the Vermont lemon law criteria noted above, write to the manufacturer using forms provided when the vehicle was delivered to you, demanding a replacement or refund. Include photocopies of your notes, all repair orders and work invoices, and other supporting documentation. Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested. Remember to photocopy your letter and keep that copy for your records.
The manufacturer then has one final chance to repair the defect, within 45 days of receiving notice of your claim. If it can't be repaired, or is not repaired within 45 days (but at least five days before the arbitration hearing), you're eligible for compensation.
Arbitration or Law Suit?
If the manufacturer has a dispute resolution procedure, or uses that of a third-party, you can choose to use that arbitration system. Or you can use the Vermont motor vehicle arbitration board's system. Whichever you choose, you cannot later choose the other option. You must choose which system you want to use when you write to the manufacturer.
If you choose the state system, you are bound by the ruling, unless you can prove that the board's exceeded its powers, or there was corruption or partiality, or the board refused to postpone the hearing for sufficient cause.
If you choose to contest the board's decision, consult a lemon law attorney. This lawyer, familiar with the Vermont lemon law, should be able to tell you if you have a case for overturning the board's ruling.
Refund or Replacement?
You have the option of receiving a replacement vehicle of comparable value (usually the same make and model, with the same options installed), or a refund.
If you choose a refund, the manufacturer must pay the full contract price plus trade-in allowance. You'll also receive registration fees, plus financing charges or credit charges. If you leased the vehicle, you'll receive your downpayment and any lease payments made. In either case, you'll also receive any related incidental charges (such as towing, rental vehicle fees directly related to the defect).
Payments will go to you and any lien holder, or to you and the lessor if you leased the vehicle.
The manufacturer is entitled to deduct a reasonable use fee based on the purchase price and the number of miles driven before the first report of the defect. This is an excellent reason to report all defects as soon as you notice them, no matter how minor they might be.
If you receive a refund, you can apply for reimbursement from the state for any motor vehicle purchase and use tax that you paid.
Vermont Lemon Law Summary
The lemon law in Vermont covers your vehicle for the life of the warranty, and is good for future owners of the vehicle as well. If you meet the criteria for a lemon vehicle, you can use the manufacturer's dispute resolution procedure, or the state's arbitration board. While the manufacturer's procedure may not be binding on you, the state's system is binding, unless you can prove malfeasance.
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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