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Roadways are seeing a lot less traffic these days as businesses remain shuttered and much of the state is adhering to the stay-at-home policy initiated by Governor Baker’s state of emergency. Just the same, people have continued to shop for and purchase cars during the pandemic. If you are one of these car shoppers, you should learn about Massachusetts’ Lemon Laws and protections that may be available to you if you buy a “lemon.”

The Lemon Laws protect consumers buying both new and used cars if the vehicle is bought from a dealer or private seller in the Commonwealth. New cars, motorcycles, vans, and trucks purchased in Massachusetts for personal use are covered by the Lemon Laws for one year, or 15,000 miles, from the date of purchase. All used cars purchased from dealers get an automatic warranty of 30 to 90 days depending on the vehicle’s mileage at the time of purchase. A car purchased from a private person receives a 30 day guarantee under this law.

The Lemon Laws apply to your purchase if you have had the same defect fixed three times and your car is still not working. It also applies if you have been unable to use the vehicle for 15 or more business days due to the time needed for repairs. If you have purchased a used car from a dealer, that dealer is required to fix any defect. The cost of parts and labor to fix a defect discovered during the designated period of time is to be covered by the dealer. If the defect cannot be fixed, the consumer who bought the “lemon” is entitled to get their money back. Further, Lemon Laws state that you can get your money back from the seller if the car you bought fails to pass inspection within 7 days from the date of sale and the cost of repairs needed to pass inspection exceeds 10% of the purchase price.

Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency, some new and used car dealers may be offering sales through their websites and conducting transactions remotely while their physical showrooms are closed.  If a dealership has a physical location in Massachusetts, a consumer may be eligible for Lemon Laws protection even if that buyer never set foot inside the dealership. Consumers who purchase motor vehicles online from a business that does not have a brick-and-mortar location or from a dealership that is located out of state may have certain rights and consumer protections, through small claims court and/or mediation, even if they are not covered under the Massachusetts Lemon Laws.

If you as a consumer find yourself in any of these situations, start by contacting the dealer or person from whom you purchased the vehicle to see if they will take it back and refund your money. If the issue is a manufacturer’s defect, you should also contact the manufacturer in writing (check your car’s manual for information) to see if the manufacturer is willing to fix the problem, or offer restitution so you can have it fixed at a repair shop. If all of these steps fail to get any results, you can apply for help from the state by requesting Lemon Law arbitration.

Despite the state of emergency, Lemon Law hearings are continuing to be held in accordance with the timeframes required by law. However, until further notice, all hearings will be conducted by telephone conference.

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