Lemon Law in Montana
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Montana’s lemon law applies to specific cars registered in Montana within two years of purchase or 18,000 driven miles, whichever comes first. If your vehicle keeps running into the same problem even after you’ve taken it in for repairs, it may qualify as a lemon.
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Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about Montana’s lemon law.
What is a lemon law?
Lemon laws are laws designed to protect consumers from products that are defective. While the term “lemon” can mean any product, it usually refers to automobiles, including cars, trucks, and motorcycles.
All fifty states and Washington D.C. have their own versions of lemon laws, including their own limitations and coverages.
A vehicle is considered a lemon if it has a manufacturer’s defect that can’t be adequately repaired in a reasonable period of time.
The length of time varies by state. If the vehicle can’t be fixed, the manufacturer—not the dealership—is required to buy the car back or provide a new vehicle so that the consumer isn’t stuck footing the bill for a vehicle they can’t use.
Is there a lemon law in Montana?
Yes, the state’s lemon law applies to all cars that are bought, leased, and registered in Montana.
Is my defect covered under the lemon law?
Your new car registered in the state of Montana could be considered a lemon if, within two years or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first, it meets the following conditions:
- You’ve had to bring it in for repairs three or more times or the defect could not be repaired in less than thirty days
- Your vehicle’s problems are all caused by the same defect
- The defect was not caused by any neglect, abuse, or unauthorized alterations on your part
- The defect significantly and negatively affects the use, value, or safety of your vehicle, and is something that is covered under your vehicle’s warranty.
Montana’s lemon law extends only to new motor vehicles and motorcycles that are purchased, leased, or titled within the state for personal or household use. It excludes vehicles purchased for business use, trucks over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, off-road vehicles, and the living portions of motor homes.
If your car is determined to be a lemon, you are entitled to either a replacement vehicle or a refund on the purchase price, excluding interest and a reasonable allowance for usage.
Key Takeaway Montana’s lemon law covers cars that are purchased outside of the state as long as their title is transferred to the state within a year of purchase.
Are used cars covered under the lemon law?
No, Montana’s lemon law does not extend to used cars.
For this reason, due diligence when it comes to used car shopping is important to avoid getting stuck with a lemon. Test drive the car before you buy it.
Purchase a CARFAX report or look into the vehicle’s history, including any recalls for the make, model, and year. Have a mechanic evaluate it, if you can.
What about new cars?
Yes, new cars are covered under Montana’s lemon law up to two years or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first.
If your new car requires the same repair more than three times in that time frame, or if it spends more than 30 days in the shop as a result of the same defect, then your car is considered a lemon.
If you have altered your car in any way since you purchased it, whether by abuse, neglect, or unauthorized customization, it may no longer qualify for protection under the lemon law.
How to pursue your lemon law rights in Montana
To qualify for lemon law protection in Montana, you must report the car’s defect to the manufacturer in writing within the warranty period (two years or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first). So long as you report the defect within your warranty period, your lemon law coverage may be extended by one year if the defect is not fixed before the warranty expires.
Make sure that you’ve kept good records of all repair attempts, which should be undertaken at the manufacturer or dealership, or by one of their certified repair shops, along with all correspondence with the manufacturer.
After three unsuccessful repair attempts are made, you now have the right to take your claim forward. The first step is to send a certified letter, with a return receipt requested, to your manufacturer notifying them that they need to make one final repair attempt on your vehicle.
Contrary to most other states’ procedures, this step is not legally required. However, taking this step is vital to helping you build your case and strengthening your claim.
If the final repair attempt is unsuccessful, you may be entitled to either a full refund of the vehicle’s purchase price, plus any costs you may have incurred as a result of its defect, or a replacement of the vehicle.
If the manufacturer contests this, the next step is arbitration, through an informal dispute settlement procedure. The procedure must be certified by the Montana Department of Justice Office of Consumer Protection.
When your claim goes to arbitration, it is highly recommended that you hire legal counsel, particularly an attorney who specializes in lemon law.
Manufacturers will have legal representation on their side at the arbitration hearing, who can help them navigate what can be a tricky and complex legal system, and having that same support on your side is invaluable.
Of course, this does not guarantee that you will win the case. But keep in mind that while manufacturers must abide by whatever decision the arbitrator comes to, you do not. If you’re unsatisfied with the decision, you may file a claim in court for your refund or replacement vehicle.
Key Takeaway You do not necessarily have to alert the manufacturer that they have one more opportunity to fix the car before you pursue a lemon law claim, but it will help strengthen your case.
Lemon law tips
Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding lemon laws:
- If you modify your vehicle in any way, whether by customization, neglect, abuse, or misuse, lemon laws will no longer apply to your vehicle.
- All repairs should be made through the manufacturer or dealership, or by repair facilities that the dealer has authorized. Keep all of the records of these repairs, including photos and videos where possible.
- Keep your terminology consistent. If you initially referred to the defect as the car “stalling,” for example, keep referring to it as “stalling.” Don’t change how you refer to the problem, or a manufacturer can argue that the issue did not need to be fixed repeatedly, which is not covered by the lemon law.
- Lemon laws can vary from state to state, including their requirements. If your situation is not covered by the lemon laws in your state, you may still be protected by the Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. If you want to pursue relief under federal law, consult with an attorney to discuss your options.
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