Back in the old days (read: 1992), I was a 3rd year student at my college and my grandmother offered to buy me a new car because my junker was collapsing from underneath me. I was a poor college student and my mom was struggling financially with the recent death of my father, so instead of seeing me take out a loan for a used car, my grandmother came to the rescue. She decided it was better to just buy me an inexpensive new car that would last for years, so I started shopping. I knew I was incredibly lucky to have this opportunity so I really did my homework. At the time it seemed like everyone I knew had a VW and they always said how good they were and how long they lasted, so it seemed like a good bet. We went down to the local dealership and I picked out a brand new black GTI…man that was a nice car back then. I had never driven such a quick and nimble car and was so excited to call it my own. Then the headaches began.
First off, on the ride home alone, the knob that rolled the window up and down fell off. No biggie, I figured, just snapped it back on. Then a few weeks later the sunroof stopped closing all the way, and the radio only worked once in a while. Although they were only minor inconveniences, I should have known right then that something was seriously wrong with this car. Then the real trouble began. The car began stalling at the most inopportune moments…like in the middle of busy intersections and while getting on the freeway. And no matter how many times I brought the car in for service, they always fixed something and gave me the green light. Except it was never really fixed, it kept stalling, the sunroof started leaking, more knobs fell off. Over and over again I kept bringing it into the dealership, sometimes leaving it there for over a week so they could poke around inside the car. But it was never fully “right”.
At this point, I was talking to a friend of mine who had just had a lemon law case with his car and it was decided in his favor. He gave me the name of his attorney and I called him up and scheduled a meeting. After telling him the story, he told me to start documenting each and every thing that went wrong with the car and to keep detailed records. The repairs continued for a few months until he decided we had a strong enough case. Back then if your car was in the shop for the same repair 3 times in year, you had a good shot at winning a lemon law case. Well mine was in way more than that, so we filed the necessary papers.
To try to make a long story short, VW and my lawyer went back and forth for a few months with offers and counteroffers until I finally accepted an offer I could live with: they would take back the car, return my money, and pay my lawyer fees for me. Sounds good to me! So a few days later I returned the car, got my money and the lawyer was paid. What is the moral of the story?
Do not accept the fact that a car is not right…if you sense that something is wrong with the car you just bought, start tracking the repairs, repair dates, service people’s names, etc and contact a good lawyer. He or she can guide you through what you need to do to prepare a proper case. The lemon laws, even though they are hard to prove sometimes, are in fact there to help you out in case you need it. For me, the case was very easy and did not take that long to get through, but I have heard of other people waiting years for their case to close. Lemon laws vary by state, so be sure to check out the info for your state to know if you have a possible case.
As for me, I went on to buy a 1994 Honda Civic that lasted 139,000 and 7 years before I sold it, and it still worked fine. I could not have been happier with the outcome.