After putting 30,000 miles on his new 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 pickup truck, Dan Metzinger had finally had enough. The pickup had developed a constant vibration at highway speeds. He took his truck to his local dealer and started what would turn out to be a six-month journey to getting a resolution through the lemon law process. He documented his experience on his YouTube channel.
After several tire rotations, repairs based on technical service bulletins and numerous discussions with service technicians and service managers at the local dealership, Metzinger's truck was never repaired to his satisfaction. Out of repair options, Metzinger eventually filed a lemon law claim.
What Are Lemon Laws?
Nicknamed lemon laws, every state has consumer-protection laws that can be traced to the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act. This was one of the first federal laws aimed at protecting consumers from products that don't perform as stated. Simply put, it gives consumers the right to seek compensation if they purchase a defective productive, such as a vehicle.
And while the federal law covers all consumers, automotive lemon laws differ by state. For example, some states cover used and leased vehicles, while other states don't. Each state is likely to differ on how many repairs a consumer needs to make before filing a lemon law claim, as well as how long past the warranty period they can file a claim. Finally, the federal law generally covers mechanical defects while state laws can be more expansive. Typically, the only thing they all have in common is the vehicle must be purchased with a factory warranty.
Filing the Claim
How you file a lemon law claim varies by state as well. It can involve hiring a lawyer, filing the claim paperwork yourself or using a third-party resolution process.
Metzinger started his claim by filing through the Better Business Bureau's Auto Line. This is a free third-party resolution agency that helps consumers with their claims and is offered in many states. His case was one of the 17,233 cases Auto Line handled in 2017.
"Since its inception, the program has helped more than 2 million consumers find solutions to their automotive problems," said Juan Herrera, national director of dispute resolution programs for BBB. "Consumers can file a complaint online at BBB.org/autoline, upload supporting documents and work with an assigned dispute resolution specialist on a wide range of car and truck warranty issues. A list of participating manufacturers is available on our website. Consumers can also call 800-955-5100 for assistance."
The only caveats of the BBB program are that not all manufacturers participate and the program works differently in each state. While Metzinger did get a response from GMC through the Auto Line process, it did not resolve his lemon law claim.
Determined to move forward, Metzinger hired an attorney, filing another claim. GM's legal department, which does not work with the BBB Auto Line, responded and then things started moving quickly.
"The process went faster than I thought it would," Metzinger said. "[GM] offered me $8,000 on Jan. 3, . … We countered at $15,000. … The following day GM offered $9,000. … We eventually countered at $14,000 on Jan. 9."
After a little more back and forth, Metzinger's attorney called on Jan. 13 and told him GM had agreed to $13,000. Metzinger and his wife decided it was enough compensation to avoid the risk of going to court and ending up with nothing. The issue was finally behind him.
While the money helps, it wasn't what Metzinger wanted, which was a replacement truck. Metzinger wonders what he should do with his current truck after the check arrives. "A financial settlement doesn't do me any good because I'm still stuck with the truck and I can't sell it privately with the shaking issue for very much money," he said.
For information or assistance with a lemon law case, visit your state's department of motor vehicles website or office, contact the BBB's Auto Line or an attorney with lemon law experience.
Cars.com photos by Tim Esterdahl