With most car owners prefer to buy a new car whenever they can afford it, some companies are even starting to offer subscription services to buyers.
But just because you're getting a new car doesn't mean that you're not potentially subject to buying a lemon. If you don't know South Carolina's lemon law, you should learn how it could protect you in case you get stuck with one.
Here's a break down of what you can expect.
Get to Know What "New" Means Under the Lemon Law
South Carolina has a lemon law that only applies to new cars. This is bad news for used car buyers who feel they might have gotten ripped off on a used car that fell apart as soon as they drove away. However, the term "new" has a very strict definition.
The car that you buy must have been bought directly from the manufacturer by the dealer in order for it to be considered new. If it had been driven outside of simple test drives in the area, it's not considered new. One thing that will seriously dampen the case of the car being considered new is if the title had ever been issued.
The idea of a "lemon" also has a very specific meaning as well. A "lemon" isn't just a car that you don't like or that doesn't drive the way you expected it to. It's a car that has defects.
When you establish trust with your car dealer, you hopefully won't have to worry about buying a lemon.
If you bought a new car, it's covered under South Carolina's lemon law so long as any defect you found was within a year or 12,000 miles on the road. If the problem causes difficulty with the vehicle's use, impedes the safety mechanism, or lowers the market value, you could be covered. If you brought it up to the manufacturer and they've kept you waiting an unreasonable amount of time, that could be covered too.
So You've Bought a New Lemon
If you've decided that you're sitting with a new car that could be a lemon, you need to first check that you're still under warranty. If the warranty hasn't expired yet, call the manufacturer to see what they can do. It might be tempting to just call the dealer but for legal protection, notify the manufacturer in writing.
First, the manufacturer has a legal obligation to you. They're required by the law to fix your vehicle within a reasonable window of time at no cost to you.
You need to know what the terms are for "a reasonable time". It means that if your car sits in the shop for 30 days with no one working on it, they've run out of time. If they've attempted to make the repair but have failed three different times, that's considered beyond "reasonable" as well.
Know your rights and don't be afraid to hold manufacturers liable to the letter of the law.
What to Do If You're Beyond a Reasonable Time
IF your repairs seem to be dragging on and on, leaving you for more than 30 days without a running vehicle, your manufacturer has a few choices. They can replace your vehicle or offer you one comparable to get you back on the road. They could also just refund your money.
When they refund you, they would have to refund any taxes or registration fees you've paid for the car. If you've paid any finance charges, the manufacturer would be responsible for refunding that as well.
If there is any kind of arbitration that the manufacturer wants to go through, you're required to take part in by law. You're not required to pay for it, however. If any decisions get made, those decisions are binding to the manufacturer but not to you.
If settlement solves the issues, you're able to just walk away and not have to deal with that lemon any further. You're always welcome to take that money and buy another car from another dealership or get another car from that manufacturer.
If you don't feel satisfied with the outcome of your arbitration, that's when you'd file a lawsuit.
Get to Know State Protections
There are laws that protect both new and used car owners that you should be aware of. These laws are general consumer protection rules that can help you in case you're taken advantage of by sellers.
Under consumer laws in South Carolina, you're allowed to file a lawsuit against a dealer who you think has knowingly or not sold you a lemon. If there are deceptive practices at play or if they treated you unfairly, the Unfair Trade Practices Act can recover damages. You can actually get three times the amount you spent in damages and legal fees as a reward.
Beware Unfair Trade Practices
There are some pretty standard and simple practices that are prohibited in South Carolina. If a car seller inaccurately describes any kind of product or service, they're in violation of the law. If they make any false offers of a gift or any kind of prize for buying at a certain price or tell you about a prize offer, it must be legitimate.
If they skirt any of the standards of manufacturing written into South Carolina state law, they'll be held responsible. If they then give you a confusing pricing scheme that they refuse to explain, that's considered an unfair trade practice.
The South Carolina Lemon Law Puts Consumers First
When you first hear about the South Carolina Lemon Law, you might be surprised to find out how heavily it favors the car owner. Thankfully for you, there are fantastic protections for consumers available in South Carolina. You won't have to worry about buying a lemon when you buy from a reputable dealer.
Once you're on the road, follow our guide to staying out of trouble, even when you've made a mistake.