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Florida Lemon Law (Car Purchase Protection)

Last Modified: 08/11/2020

Buying a new car is a huge financial commitment and it should never have to feel like a gamble. 

Consumers reasonably expect a certain level of quality and reliability from a new vehicle, and the effects of purchasing something that immediately breaks down are far greater than simple buyer’s remorse. A car that is in constant need of repair can lead to loss of income or employment, negatively affect your family life or education, make it difficult to get food and daily supplies, interfere with scheduled medical care, and more. New cars are purchased with the intention of easing burdens, not adding to them.

The Motor Vehicle Warranty and Enforcement Act was created to help Florida drivers avoid getting saddled with a new vehicle that doesn’t live up to expectations. Commonly known as the “Florida Lemon Law,” this act protects Floridians who purchase or lease new vehicles by requiring manufacturers to promptly fix defects, or to offer refunds and replacements when a vehicle cannot be fixed.

While the Florida Lemon Law does offer consumers significant rights and protections, it does not apply to every car-buying situation. Read below for more information on the Motor Vehicle Warranty and Enforcement Act, the protections it offers, and how to exercise the rights provided by it.

If you are involved in a dispute with your vehicle’s manufacturer or service provider, or want to appeal a decision made by an arbitration board, contact CLSMF for legal advice.

WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?

The purpose of the Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act is to make sure that the new vehicle you receive meets the standards of safety and function that you may reasonably expect when purchasing a new car, and to ensure that issues are promptly fixed if this is not the case.

The Florida Lemon Law covers vehicle defects that are the fault of the manufacturer or dealership, known legally as “nonconformities.” These nonconformities include any defect that “impairs the use, value, or safety” of your new vehicle.

Nonconformities do not cover defects or conditions that were not caused by the manufacturer or dealership. The Florida Lemon Law does not apply to problems with your car that resulted from an accident, abuse, or negligence. It also will not protect you if you took your vehicle to someone other than the manufacturer or one of their authorized service providers for modifications or alterations.

The Florida Lemon Law entitles you to have these nonconformities repaired. If the problems are not fixed after a “reasonable number of attempts,” the manufacturer is obligated to buy back the defective vehicle at full purchase price (minus a “reasonable offset” depending on use) or offer you a replacement vehicle. You do not have to take the replacement vehicle, you always have the choice to accept the refund instead.

All of the rights and protections of the Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act only apply to the purchase of a new or demonstrator vehicle from an authorized service agent (a car dealer) — they do not apply to used car purchases or purchases from private sellers.

Leased vehicle may also be covered if they are new or demonstrator vehicles and one of the following applies:

  • The lease is part of a lease-purchase agreement, or
  • The lease is 1 year or more and you are responsible for repairs.

A “demonstrator vehicle” (or “demo car”) is a vehicle that has been previously used by the management or sales people of a car dealership. It may have been driven by customers on test drives as part of the sales process or functioned as a staff member’s personal vehicle. They may have significant mileage, unlike brand-new cars, but demo cars are not yet registered with the state and are still sold as “new” cars.

The Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act does not protect vehicles purchased for the purpose of resale. The law is intended to protect consumers who are using a vehicle for “personal, family, or household purposes.”

The following vehicles are excluded from protection under the Florida Lemon Law:

  • Vehicles that run only upon tracks;
  • Off-road vehicles;
  • Trucks over 10,000 pounds (gross vehicle weight); and
  • Motorcycles and mopeds.

While the Florida Lemon Law does apply to recreational vehicles, it does not cover the living facilities of recreational vehicles. The term “living facilities” refers generally to parts or systems of the vehicle designed mainly for use as a living space — essentially, anything that would not be found on a regular transportation vehicle. Below are some examples of non-covered living facilities:

  • Plumbing system and fixtures;
  • Flooring;
  • Roof air conditioners;
  • Generators;
  • Non-automotive electric systems;
  • Furnaces;
  • Side entrance doors and side windows; and
  • Exterior compartments.

Your rights and protections under the Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act last for 24 months after you take possession of the vehicle. Any claims or arbitration must relate to problems which took place within this time period, also known as the “Lemon Law Rights Period.”

If the new or demonstrator vehicle is transferred from one consumer to another within the first 24 months, the second owner may also be covered under the Florida Lemon Law as long as both owners have only used it for personal, family, or household purposes.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?

To exercise your rights under the Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act you must first give the manufacturer the opportunity to repair any defects. Any further action can only be taken if you have given the manufacturer a “reasonable number of attempts” to fix any problems. To satisfy this qualification, one of the following must apply:

  • You have taken your vehicle in for repairs of the same defect 3 times and the problem still exists; or
  • Your vehicle has been out of service and in for repair because of one or more nonconformities for a total of 15 days. (These do not have to be in a row.)

If either of those situations occur, you must still give the manufacturer one final opportunity to repair the vehicle before you are considered having met the reasonable number of attempts.

Repair attempts must be done by the manufacturer or an “authorized service agent.” An authorized service agent is anyone, including dealerships, authorized by the manufacturer of your vehicle to make repairs on it. Do not have any unauthorized mechanic attempt to repair your vehicle’s defects, including friends, family, or yourself.

If you own a recreational vehicle with two different manufacturers, an authorized service agent will be anyone authorized by the manufacturer of the specific items being repaired.  

If the manufacturer or authorized service providers have been unable to fix the same defect 3 times, you must next contact the manufacturer and give them one last chance to fix the issue.

You must give notice in writing and send it through certified, registered, or express mail. You should be able to find the appropriate address for your manufacturer in your vehicle’s owner’s manual, in your warranty packet, or in other written material provided by them.

While you have the option of writing out your own notice, the Florida Attorney General provides a Motor Vehicle Defect Notification form that you can fill out and mail in to serve as your written notice. To see instructions and download the form, head to http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/Main/F5967C36E62D911985256CC9005C9F37.

After the manufacturer receives this notice, they have 10 days (45 for recreational vehicles) to respond by giving you an opportunity to have the car repaired at a reasonably accessible repair facility within a reasonable timeframe.

Once you have dropped the vehicle off for the final repair attempt, they have 10 days (45 days for recreational vehicles) to fix the problem.

If, after receiving your notice, the manufacturer does not contact you with the opportunity for repair or give you a reasonable location and timeline for repair, you do not have to meet the final repair attempt qualification.

If you have been unable to use your vehicle for 15 cumulative days or more because it has been in for repair of one or more defects at an authorized service provider, you must next contact the manufacturer and give them one last chance to fix the issue. (These 15 days cannot include time the car was at a service provider for routine scheduled maintenance, only repair time for nonconformities.)

You must give notice in writing and send it through certified, registered, or express mail. You should be able to find the appropriate address for your manufacturer in your vehicle’s owner’s manual, in your warranty packet, or in other written material provided by them.

While you have the option of writing out your own notice, the Florida Attorney General provides the Motor Vehicle Defect Notification form that you can fill out and mail in to serve as your written notice. To see instructions and download the form, head to http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/Main/F5967C36E62D911985256CC9005C9F37.

Once the manufacturer receives this notice, they are entitled to one last opportunity to have the vehicle inspected or repaired.

You are only entitled to a refund or replacement after a reasonable number of attempts have been made. The Motor Vehicle Warranty and Enforcement Act considers these qualifications met if one of the following applies:

  • You have taken your vehicle in for repairs of the same defect 3 times and given the manufacturer notice and a final opportunity to fix it, but the problem still exists; or
  • Your vehicle has been out of service and in for repair because of one or more nonconformities for a total of 30 days (60 for recreational vehicles) and you have given the manufacturer notice and a final opportunity to inspect or repair it.

If the manufacturer or its authorized service provider cannot fix the defects and conform the vehicle to warranty, they have 40 days to do one of the following:

  • Repurchase your vehicle from you for the full purchase price, minus a reasonable offset for use (a fee based on your vehicle’s mileage before the settlement or hearing); or
  • Replace your vehicle with another vehicle acceptable to you, keeping in mind a reasonable offset for use.

Replacement vehicles must be “reasonably equivalent” to the one you are turning in. Any replacement vehicle you are offered will not have a retail price higher than 105% the retail price of the vehicle they are replacing. You are never obligated to accept a replacement vehicle — you always have the choice of accepting a refund instead.

You will not be charged any fees for breaking a lease if a refund or replacement takes place.

To estimate the value of a potential refund or replacement, visit the Florida Attorney General’s Lemon Law Remedy Calculation Guideline here: http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/Main/11683324a086f93885256cc9005ce8f4

If you have completed a reasonable number of attempts, your nonconformities still have not been fixed, and the manufacturer refuses to offer you a refund or replacement, your next step is arbitration.

If your vehicle’s manufacturer has their own state-certified arbitration program, you must submit your dispute there first. If they offer a state-certified program, your manufacturer should have provided you with contact information and instructions for submitting a dispute by including it with the paperwork they provided at purchase, such as the owner’s manual or warranty book. The Florida Office of the Attorney General’s website also provides a list of manufacturers with state-certified arbitration programs that you can find here: http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/Main/7629400e4ef8a25285256cc9005c5a5b

You must file your dispute with your manufacturer’s state-certified arbitration program no later than 60 days after the expiration of your Lemon Law Rights Period. The manufacturer-sponsored program has 40 days to make a decision.

The final action you may take under the Florida Lemon Law is to take your dispute to the Florida Office of the Attorney General’s New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board.

You may only submit your dispute to the Florida New Motor Vehicle Registration Board if one of the following applies:

  • Your vehicle’s manufacturer does not have their own state-certified arbitration program;
  • The manufacturer’s state-certified arbitration program did not make a formal decision within 40 days of receiving your dispute; or
  • You are unsatisfied with the decision made by the manufacturer’s state-certified arbitration program.

A manufacturer may not petition the Florida New Motor Vehicle Registration Board to review a decision made by their own internal arbitration program.

Fill out a copy of the Request for Arbitration form, follow all instructions, and mail it to the address listed on the form. You must submit this form no later than 60 days after your Lemon Law Rights Period expires or 30 days after the final action of a state-certified procedure, whichever is later. The Florida Attorney General provides printable and fillable versions of this form here: http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/Main/6B85CAE96E93D8DD852578BF0045237A

After receiving your request form, the Florida New Motor Vehicle Registration Board will review your dispute to make sure it is eligible for their arbitration. If it is accepted, they will hear your dispute within 40 days of approving your request and offer a final decision within 60 days of approving your request.

If the board’s decision is in your favor, the manufacturer has 40 days to comply with the terms, providing a refund or replacement vehicle.

If the board does not find in your favor and you wish to appeal the decision, you must do so by petitioning the circuit court for the county where you live, where you bought the vehicle, or where the arbitration took place within 30 days of the board’s ruling. If you want to appeal the board’s decision and petition a circuit court, contact CLSM for legal advice.

WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE TAKING ACTION?

It is important that you keep accurate and detailed records of every interaction that you have with the manufacturer, the dealership, and any of their authorized service providers. Keep copies of paper mail and emails, and make records of any conversations that took place in person or over the telephone (date, time, who you spoke with, what was said, etc.).

Keep personal records about your vehicle as well. Save copies of any receipts or invoices related to work done on your car, and maintain your own detailed records of any work that took place — include dates, times, work being done, and your car’s mileage before and after the work was completed.

If the court deems that your claims were in made in bad faith, the product of negative intentions such as harassment, or have no rational basis (“in complete absence of a justiciable issue of either law or fact’), you could end up responsible for costs and attorney’s fees accrued by the manufacturer or dealer as a result of your dispute.

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