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  6.  — New Hampshire Vehicle Lemon Law Explained

New Hampshire Lemon Law And Laws That Apply To Used Vehicles Bought In New Hampshire

In the United States of America, when someone makes a reference to their vehicle being a lemon, they normally colloquially mean that their vehicle is a bad car. However, while it might be true that it is a bad and defective vehicle, a vehicle being deemed a lemon really is a legal designation.

Certain things have to have occurred and exist for a vehicle to be deemed a lemon, such as it being out of service for repair in excess of a certain amount of days, or it not being able to be repaired after it having been brought in to the dealership for repair at least a specific number of times within the warranty period for the vehicle that is outlined for the vehicle under state law.

Generally, the problem with the vehicle, normally called a “defect”, must be something that affects the safety and/or use of the vehicle in order for the vehicle to be deemed a lemon.  Depending on the state’s lemon law that would apply, there are other things that must be true in order for a vehicle to be deemed a lemon.  If a vehicle is deemed a lemon, the consumer is often entitled to either a repurchase of the vehicle, or a replacement vehicle, from the manufacturer or dealer, depending on if the vehicle is a new or leased vehicle, or if it is a used vehicle.

Some states do not have lemon laws, other states only have lemon laws that apply to new and leased vehicles, and some states have lemon laws that apply to new, leased, and used vehicles. Every state is generally different.

The New Hampshire New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Law, RSA 357-D, commonly known as the New Hampshire Lemon Law, is a state law that provides legal protection for consumers who acquire vehicles that have unfixable defects. These defects are also called “nonconformities”. Any motor vehicle sold in New Hampshire must conform to the applicable manufacturer’s warranty. In New Hampshire, motor vehicle manufacturers must provide consumers with a notice of their arbitration rights and dealerships must display a notice of these rights in their showrooms for new or low mileage vehicles. The New Hampshire Lemon Law only applies to vehicles that are purchased or leased from in-state dealerships. In order for a vehicle to qualify, the defects must have occurred before the expiration of the manufacturer’s express warranty period. Consumers must then file the claim within a year of the expiration of said warranty period.

The New Hampshire Lemon Law generally only applies to new vehicles but in some cases, low mileage used vehicles may qualify as well if the defect occurred when the vehicle was still under the original manufacturer’s warranty. For example, if a consumer purchased a used vehicle with a mileage of 25,000 miles and the manufacturer’s warranty covered up to 50,000 miles, the consumer’s vehicle would then be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, and it would have that element that is necessary for it to potentially eventually qualify as a lemon vehicle. The types of vehicles that are covered under the New Hampshire Lemon Law include cars, motorcycles, and off-highway recreational vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 11,000 pounds or below. A vehicle can potentially be considered to be a lemon under the New Hampshire Lemon Law if it also has a defect that substantially impairs its use, value or safety. This defect must be one that is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty and one that has not been repaired by the manufacturer or an authorized representative.

Consumers should bring their vehicle to the manufacturer or an authorized representative (oftentimes a dealership) for repair if they find that their vehicle has a defect. Consumers must allow the manufacturer or the manufacturer authorized dealer to have a reasonable number of repair attempts to try to fix the defect. In New Hampshire, a reasonable number of repair attempts is considered to be three repair attempts for the same defect. For each repair attempt, consumers are entitled to receive a written repair order from the dealer. This work order should contain information like a description of the defect and an itemized statement listing out the work that was been done to the vehicle.

After three unsuccessful repair attempts during the manufacturer’s warranty period, or after the vehicle has been out of service because of a defect for at least 30 cumulative business days during the manufacturer’s warranty period, the consumer would be able to qualify for arbitration. In some cases, if a vehicle has a very serious or dangerous defect, a consumer’s vehicle may be able to qualify to potentially be a lemon vehicle with a lesser number of repair attempts or fewer days out of service. After a consumer files for arbitration, the manufacturer is provided with a final repair attempt to fix the vehicle’s defect. This repair must be done before the arbitration hearing occurs. If the manufacturer still cannot fix the defect, then per the order of the New Hampshire Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board they would have to either repurchase the vehicle from the consumer or provide them with a replacement vehicle.

What damages are consumers entitled to?

Under the New Hampshire Lemon Law, consumers are entitled to receive a refund or a replacement for their defective vehicle. If the manufacturer buys back the lemon vehicle or refunds the purchase price of the lemon vehicle, they would get the vehicle back. They would also have to include a refund of any license and finance fees, registration fees, credit charges, and possibly other damages that the consumer has incurred as well. Manufacturers are allowed to deduct a reasonable allowance for the vehicle’s usage. This amount would be calculated from a formula based on the mileage of the vehicle up to its first repair attempt.

If the manufacturer replaces the defective vehicle, the replacement vehicle must be a new vehicle of comparable worth to the original vehicle. While adjustments are allowed for differences between the model years of the vehicles, manufacturers cannot deduct a reasonable allowance for a replacement vehicle in that regard.

Under the New Hampshire Lemon Law, because of the statute’s fee-shifting provision, prevailing consumers are entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs from manufacturers.

Does the New Hampshire Lemon Law cover used cars?

No. As mentioned earlier, the New Hampshire Lemon Law does not cover used vehicles except for the ones that are still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. While the lemon law does not cover used vehicles that turn out to be defective, New Hampshire does have a law that regulates the sale of unsafe used cars. This law is known as the New Hampshire Unsafe Vehicle Act (RSA 358-F). Under this law, an unsafe vehicle is determined to be any vehicle that has brakes, frames, exhausts systems, or lights that are unable to pass a safety inspection. The law states that in order to sell an unsafe used car, the dealer must inform consumers that the vehicle will be unable to pass the state’s safety inspection and they must provide consumers with the opportunity to have the vehicle inspected for safety. The dealer is allowed to charge a reasonable fee for this inspection. If the consumer still wishes to purchase the car, the dealer must provide them with a list of the vehicle’s defects as well as a notice that states that the vehicle will not pass the state’s inspection. If a dealer violates the New Hampshire Unsafe Vehicle Act, they are considered to have performed an unfair or deceptive trade practice. Because of this, consumers whose rights are violated under the Unsafe Vehicle Act are entitled to rights and remedies under the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act.

Additionally, consumers that purchase used vehicles may qualify for protection under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This is a federal statute that governs the sale of consumer goods that include written warranties. If a consumer purchases a used vehicle that includes a warranty, the dealer would have to abide by the provisions of this law. If a dealership that sells used vehicles fails to meet their obligations under a warranty that they provided to a consumer who bought a used vehicle from that dealership, the consumer may be able to file suit under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and collect statutory damages, actual damages, and if deemed appropriate by the court to have their reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs be paid by that dealership.

It should be noted that the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act also applies to a manufacturer of a vehicle who fails to meet its obligations under the warranty that it provided to a consumer who bought a vehicle that was still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.