Not all new cars are perfect, although you expect them to be when you make the investment. When a new car has a defect that cannot be fixed after several repair attempts, the buyer can file a claim under the Virginia Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act, also known as the Lemon Law. Under this law, the buyer may get a full refund of all costs for the vehicle or a comparable replacement vehicle if he can prove that his new car is a lemon. There are some exceptions to the law, however, including any defect that has resulted from owner neglect, abuse, lack of maintenance, or modifications to the vehicle.
What Constitutes Abuse or Neglect
In order to make a claim under the lemon law, you must show that the car has a defect that impairs its use, safety, or resale value. The defect must have been caused by the manufacturer and be unfixable by authorized repair shops. If it is shown that your actions—or inaction, in some cases—caused the defect, you will not have a claim under the lemon law. Examples of new car abuse include driving the car off-road, consistent harsh braking or acceleration, excessive speed or reckless driving, or crashing the car. A history of moving violations could be all the proof needed to reject your claim. Not maintaining the vehicle through regular oil changes and fluid checks as required by the manufacturer could constitute neglect and also void your claim.
Any modification that would void your new car warranty would also void your lemon law claim. If you install a supercharger in your engine and the engine later fails, you would not be able to claim a manufacturer’s defect if the supercharger is found to be the cause of the failure. This is a bit of a gray area, however, as many modifications people make to new cars have no effect on parts of the car that tend to break down. For example, an aftermarket exhaust has no effect on the engine and fancy rims will not affect power steering, but a dealer could claim that you made unauthorized modifications and therefore gave up your chance of a lemon law claim. The dealer has to prove a connection between the modification and the defect, but you may not get that far with your case without the help of a lawyer.
The Consumer Law Group Will Tell You If You Have a Claim
John Cole Gayle, Jr. is a co-author of Virginia’s Lemon Law. He knows what a strong claim is and whether you may have blown your chances with a modification to your new car. Fill out the “Do you have a claim?” form on this page to get started.