How well do you know your car buying rights?

PITTSBURGH — With vehicle prices up and inventory down, it’s more important than ever to keep your guard up when you buy a car.

The lemon law can give you protection when something goes wrong with a vehicle, but you have to know your rights so people can’t take advantage of you.

Tale of a Lemon

Galen Hatcher never expected his brand-new Kia Stinger to break down after less than a year, but it happened.

“It completely shut down. It stopped. Right in the middle of the fast lane of 376 Highway on my way to work,” Hatcher said, remembering that awful day.

The car had to be towed to the dealer and took nearly two weeks to fix. Then, before he could even get it back home, it happened again.

“It broke down at the bottom of the street. Again, exact same thing!” he said, still incredulous.

This time, it was at the dealer for more than 40 days, and still no fix.

Hatcher says the Century 3 Kia dealership would not give him a loaner or rental car, so he started racking up big rental car bills with no end in sight.

“Endless frustration is putting it mildly,” he said.

Using the Lemon Law

Hatcher didn’t know what to do, until a friend suggested he get some legal help.

“I didn’t have no idea that I had rights! And this is where the consumer really messes up,” he said.

He contacted a lemon law firm and learned consumers do have recourse to fight back.

Pennsylvania’s lemon law requires the manufacturer to repair any defect that substantially impairs the safety or value of your vehicle, if it happens in the first 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.

“The laws are some of the best in the country,” Communications Director Michael Sacks said. “Anything that goes wrong with a vehicle that happens repetitively under warranty or requires your vehicle to be out of service an extended period of time is a potential claim.”

The rule under the Pennsylvania Lemon Law is if a defect happens three or more times under warranty (even if they’re different problems) or if your vehicle is out of service for 30 or more days, you could be compensated.

Sacks says even if you fall outside of Pennsylvania’s Lemon Law, you could still be entitled to thousands of dollars. If you have extended manufacturer’s warranty, you could be covered under the grandfather of the Lemon Law, known as the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act.

No matter what, it’s vital that you keep detailed service records.

“Mileage in, mileage out, days of service, what you’re complaining about, and what they’re doing to fix the problem, and make sure that document is accurate before you leave the dealership,” Sacks said.

If you have a successful claim, the possible outcomes include:

  • Replacing your vehicle.
  • Buying it back.
  • “Cash and keep” — where the manufacturer fixes the problem and also compensates you for your vehicle’s diminished value.

Hatcher used the lemon law firm to file suit and settled his case earlier this month. He chose the “cash and keep” option. The manufacturer finally fixed the problem with his Kia at the company’s expense, reimbursed him for his rentals and towing costs, and paid him several thousand dollars more in compensation.

He’s relieved the whole ordeal is finally over and has this advice for other consumers:

“You have to do your research. And know there is help out there.”

Car Buyer Rights Quiz

In our story, we had some fun with consumers in downtown Pittsburgh asking questions from our Car Buyers’ Rights Quiz. In the video above, Sacks answers these questions from our quiz:

  • If you buy a car and something goes wrong, do you have a three-day cooling off period to return it?
  • Once you’ve signed a deal, can the dealer change the price on you?
  • Are used cars covered by the lemon law?
  • When you buy a car, does the owner have to disclose all accidents to you?
  • If you have a warranty, do you have to go back to the place where you bought it to get service?
  • Can a consumer under the age of 25 be denied a loaner vehicle?

Watch the video above to hear the answers. And if you’d like to take the quiz yourself for fun, CLICK HERE.