Lemon Laws in Rhode Island

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Rhode Island lemon laws apply to cars that have been purchased or leased in Rhode Island within one year of their delivery date or 15,000 miles (whichever comes first) that are still under warranty. This includes passenger cars, trucks, motorcycles, and vans that weigh fewer than 10,000 pounds.
If your vehicle keeps running into the same problem even after you’ve taken it in for repairs, you may have a lemon. But don’t despair, Rhode Island’s lemon laws are there to help you.
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Keep reading to learn all you need to know about lemon laws in Rhode Island.
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What is a lemon law?

In general terms, lemon laws are laws designed to protect consumers from defective products. This is especially the case for automobiles, like cars, motorcycles, and trucks.
A vehicle is considered a lemon if it has a manufacturer’s defect that can’t be sufficiently repaired in a predetermined, “reasonable” period of time. A “reasonable” period of time varies depending on the state.
If the vehicle can’t be fixed, the manufacturer—not the dealership—is required to either buy the car back or to replace the faulty car with a new one at their own expense.

Is there a lemon law in Rhode Island?

Yes, Rhode Island’s lemon law extends to new cars purchased or leased in Rhode Island.

Is my defect covered under the lemon law?

Your new car purchased or leased in the state of Rhode Island could be considered a lemon if, within one year or 15,000 miles of purchasing it (whichever comes first), your car meets the following criteria:
  • You’ve had to bring it in for repairs at least four times
  • The defect cannot 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 alterations on your part
  • The defect affects a component that is covered under your vehicle’s express warranty
Rhode Island’s lemon laws extend only to motor vehicles that are purchased or leased within the state. This includes passenger cars, trucks, motorcycles, and vans weighing less than 10,000 pounds.

Are used cars covered under the lemon law?

Yes, Rhode Island’s lemon laws do cover used cars, as long as the cars are still within their first year since the original delivery date, or within 15,000 miles, whichever expires first. But because it’s extremely uncommon for used cars to switch hands within that time frame, used cars frequently do not qualify for lemon law protection.
For this reason, due diligence is important when it comes to used car shopping. Make sure to test drive the car before you buy it.
Also, 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.
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What about new cars?

Yes, new cars are covered under lemon laws for up to one year or 15,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Your manufacturer has at least four opportunities to fix the defect in that time frame. If your new car requires the same repair more than four times, then your car can be considered a lemon.
If you have altered, neglected, or abused your car in any way since you purchased it, your vehicle may no longer qualify for protection under lemon laws.

How to pursue your lemon law rights in Rhode Island

Manufacturers must abide by the results of the arbitration, but consumers are not required to. If a consumer is unsatisfied with the results, they may file a claim in court for a refund or replacement vehicle.

Determine if your vehicle is eligible

Your first step in pursuing your lemon law rights in Rhode Island should be to determine whether or not your car is eligible for lemon law protection.
If your car was leased or purchased new in Rhode Island, is within a year of its delivery date and below 15,000 miles, and the manufacturer has made at least four unsuccessful attempts to repair the defect, you should qualify for a lemon law case.

Enter arbitration

The next step is to enter arbitration. Arbitration is required in the state of Rhode Island, and the process must be certified by the Rhode Island Attorney General.
During the arbitration, you will be tasked with proving that your car qualifies as a lemon, with sufficient documentation of the defect and all repair attempts corrected, so make sure that you keep good records of everything, including correspondence with the manufacturer.

Remember, you might not win your case

Keep in mind, however, that just because you’ve followed all the rules, this does not automatically guarantee you’ll win your case.
Manufacturers may argue that they were not given “reasonable attempts” to fix the problem. It’s strongly advised that you hire an attorney who deals with lemon law litigation, not least because manufacturers will likely have experienced legal representation on their side when dealing with this type of complex case. Don’t be caught unprepared.

Take the case to court

Manufacturers are required to comply with whatever decision the arbitrator makes, but you are not. If you’re dissatisfied with the decision, you are within your rights to take the case to court.
Key Takeaway Arbitration requires you to prove that your car is a lemon, so document everything thoroughly.

Lemon law tips

A few things to keep in mind:
  • If you modify your vehicle in any way, whether by customization, neglect, abuse, or misuse, lemon laws will no longer apply to your car.
  • 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.
  • 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 go over your options.
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