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Rhode Island Lemon Law – What Car Buyers Need to Know

Buying a new car should be a cause for celebration. But if your car turns out to be a “lemon,” your celebration can turn sour. Your car might spend more time in an auto body shop in Providence than on the road, leaving you with expensive car payments and nothing to show for it. Don’t worry though, there are measures in place to protect consumers if something like this should occur, called the Rhode Island Lemon Law

The lemon law in Rhode Island protects consumers who buy a new vehicle that can’t be repaired. But how do you know if your car qualifies? Learn your lemon law rights in Rhode Island from experienced Providence lawyers.

Does Rhode Island lemon law exist?

Yes. Rhode Island, like all states, has its own lemon law protections for consumers. In a nutshell, RI lemon laws require a dealership to either refund or replace your vehicle if it turns out to be unrepairable.

Lemon law dates back to 1984 when the government established it to protect consumers from unscrupulous automobile dealers and manufacturers.

The lemon law helps protect consumers who purchased defective:

  • Cars
  • Trucks
  • Vans & SUVs
  • Motorcycles
  • Other Passenger vehicles

Rhode Island’s state lemon law is quite comprehensive and offers protections that some states don’t. But what are the exact qualifications?

Does my car qualify for lemon law in RI?

To qualify for protection, a new vehicle must have the following characteristics to be eligible to use the lemon law in Rhode Island: RI State Laws

  • Be a passenger vehicle, like a car, truck, motorcycle, or van
  • Weigh less than 10,000 pounds

Your vehicle must have a major defect covered by the manufacturer warranty that “substantially impairs its use, value, or safety.” It must also have undergone a “reasonable number of repair attempts” within a set time period.

Your vehicle may qualify if the same defect can’t be fixed after four repair attempts within either:

  • 1 year after your purchase
  • 15,000 miles.

rhode island lemon law statistics nationwide

What is the federal “lemon law”?

In addition to Rhode Island’s state lemon law, there’s also a “federal lemon law” called the Magnuson-Moss Act. This law regulates warranties on consumer products and states that manufacturers must meet certain requirements if a new vehicle doesn’t perform as expected.

The law states that if a product “contains a defect or malfunction after a reasonable number of attempts by the warrantor to remedy defects or malfunctions in such product, such warrantor must permit the consumer to elect either a refund or replacement without charge of, such product or part (as the case may be).”

The federal law is broader than Rhode Island’s state laws. But both avenues can lead to a refund or replacement vehicle. Your Providence Lawyer can advise you on the best route to pursue with your unique case.

Does Rhode Island Lemon Law apply to leased cars?

What if you leased your vehicle instead of purchasing it? Does the lemon law still apply?

The answer is yes. The Rhode Island lemon law protects new vehicles that have been leased. If your vehicle qualifies, you can pursue the same dispute process that you would with a purchased new car.

Is there a Rhode Island Lemon Law for used cars?

What if your “lemon” isn’t a new car? Can you return a used car if it has problems? The answer is sometimes.

According to the Rhode Island Attorney General, a used vehicle qualifies if either of the following applies:

  • The vehicle can’t be repaired after three attempts to fix the same defect within the warranty period
  • The vehicle has been out of service for 15 days or more within the warranty period.

Do lemon laws apply to private sales in Rhode Island?

What if you didn’t buy a car from a dealership but from a private seller instead?

Lemon law generally doesn’t apply to private sales. However, if you bought a car that’s still under manufacturer warranty, you may be able to contact the manufacturer directly.

It may also be possible to pursue a small claims case against the seller if they knowingly hid the vehicle’s problems from you. If this is the case, the team at Petrarca Law Offices can help you file the case and pursue litigation, if necessary.

What should I do if my vehicle falls under Rhode Island lemon law?

First, you should contact the dealership and request repairs. If your vehicle can’t be repaired after four attempts, then you can begin disputing your claim. You may need to pursue different avenues, depending on if your vehicle is new or used.

If your car is new, you can file a request for arbitration with the Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board within the office of Rhode Island’s Attorney General. You’ll need to provide documentation of your case proving that your vehicle qualifies. Gather all your documents pertaining to your case like:

  • Sale or lease documents.
  • Maintenance or repair records
  • Statements from mechanics

You can also pursue a dispute with the Better Business Bureau’s Auto Line program.

You may need to follow a different path if your car is used. Rhode Island’s Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board doesn’t handle used car cases. However, if your used car is still under warranty, then you might be able to dispute it directly with the dealership or manufacturer.

You’ll have to do all the filing yourself, which is where having a RI attorney on your side comes in handy. They can help you navigate the complex filing process and negotiate on your behalf, sparing you even more headaches.

Need a lemon law lawyer in Providence RI?

If you need help with Rhode Island’s lemon law, Petrarca Law is here for you.

As experienced Providence attorneys, we’ve stood up for our client’s rights and even advocated for legislation that helps Rhode Island drivers. We can help you:

  • Understand your rights as a Rhode Island consumer
  • Gather all the necessary documentation and file claims, inside or outside of court
  • Negotiate with a dealership or manufacturer on your behalf

We’ll help you explore every possible avenue and fight aggressively to help you come to a reasonable outcome under the RI lemon laws.

Contact Petrarca Law Offices today for a free consultation.