If you're searching for info on the Florida Lemon Law, then it's a safe bet that you are unhappy with a recent new or used car purchase. Perhaps you found the perfect car at the perfect price, paid the dealer, and now it's all yours.
Maybe you hit the street, cruising in the Florida sunshine when all of a sudden you heard a loud knock beneath the hood and realized something was amiss with your dream car—and from the sound of it, something quite expensive.
Did you just buy a lemon? And more importantly, will Florida lemon law provide a remedy for this pickle you've found yourself in? Let's take a closer look at consumer protection laws that are designed to help Florida consumers in situations just like yours.
What is a Lemon Law?
Knowing where the term "lemon law" comes from can help you understand the premise behind lemon laws. The term most likely has its origins in Britain in the early 1900s when the phrase, "hand someone a lemon," meant to trick them by passing off a worthless or sub-standard item as one of good quality. It was also used at the time to indicate a "hustler" who would work the billiard halls with his "lemon game," pretending to be a novice billiards player when in reality he was quite skilled. This term likely carried over to become American slang in the 20th century; to call someone a lemon implied that they were a simpleton or a loser. Today, we know a lemon to be a car that has one or more undisclosed significant flaws that can't be remedied. It leaves a sour or bad taste in your mouth. A lemon law provides protections for the consumer, at least to some extent.
What Constitutes a Lemon?
Florida Lemon Law is known as the Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act. Under Florida law, a lemon car is one that is a leased or purchased vehicle that is either new or was used as a demonstrator by the dealership and has nonconformities that have not been repaired after a "reasonable number of attempts" by an authorized dealer. The defect, or nonconformity, must be a substantial one that impedes the use, safety or value of the motor vehicle.
Federal Lemon Law
Consumers are also afforded some federal protections against buying faulty vehicles. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act works to protect consumers by providing guidelines for all warranty requirements. It also places specific requirements and limits on what sellers can put in the warranties they offer with car sales.
What Purchases are Covered by Lemon Law in Florida?
Lemon Law in Florida does not apply to all vehicles just because they have issues or chronic problems. However, it does apply to purchased and leased vehicles that are:
- Purchased or leased from a dealer in Florida or a first owner within two years of the date of the original purchase
- Used mainly for personal, family or household use
- Nonconformant to the express written warranty of the manufacturer
- Unrepaired after several attempts by the dealer or manufacturer to remedy the problem
To fall back on the protections of lemon law in Florida, you must have a right to enforce the vehicle's warranty, and you must have provided notice to the manufacturer in regards to the problem, providing them a final attempt to address the issue. An authorized service center or manufacturer must be given three attempts to repair the problem with the vehicle. If the vehicle is out of service due to efforts to resolve the defect for a cumulative 30 days, then it is presumed, under the lemon law, to be a defective vehicle.
Lemon Law in Action
In Florida, putting the state law on lemon cars to work requires that you notify the manufacturer by registered or express mail once three attempts have been made to fix it. They are afforded 10 days to respond and provide you the chance to have your vehicle fixed at a repair center. The manufacturer has 10 days to repair the vehicle to factory standard per the new car warranty.
If that doesn't work, then you may have to take your case through informal dispute resolution or for arbitration. That occurs before Florida's New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board.
You do not need an attorney to be heard before the board, but a lemon law attorney might prove useful to help sort the details before your case reaches the panel. You will need to have proof that you tried to work with the dealer or manufacturer, including proof of the number of repair attempts made and mail receipts where you gave legal notice to them regarding the matter.
If the vehicle is deemed to be a lemon, then the manufacturer will be required to either give you a refund for the purchase price or a replacement vehicle. The choice is left up to you. The manufacturer will also be required to pay you any related expenses for taking the case to arbitration or dispute resolution.
Bear in mind that, even if you are refunded for the purchase price of your vehicle, you may not get back every penny that you paid. In Florida, deductions are made for any manufacturer rebates that were given to you at purchase and any cash awards provided as incentives for buying the car. Also, the use of the vehicle will also come into question, and the vehicle will be devalued based on its mileage. If you opt for a replacement, you will have to pay any difference in the replacement value of the new car versus the lemon, which is now a used vehicle. So, for instance, if you receive $30,000 in a settlement based on Lemon Law, and the car for that model year is $32,000, then you will have to pay the difference of $2,000 to take the replacement home.
Limitations of Florida Lemon Law
Keep in mind that in the state of Florida, Lemon Law covers mainly new vehicles that are purchased for personal use. It does not include trucks that weigh more than 10,000 pounds gross, motorcycles, mopeds, off-road vehicles, or recreational vehicles that can be used as housing, such as an RV. Vehicles explicitly purchased for resale are also excluded.