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Lemon Laws (kind of) protect new and used RV buyers. This is how they REALLY work

If you have purchased a new or used RV, only to have your rig stuck in the shop for weeks or months for warranty repairs, you may have a “lemon.” If your dealer/warranty repair shop repeatedly tries and fails to repair the problem(s), you do have a lemon by definition.

Definition of a lemon vehicle or RV is in Lemon Laws

The definition is in the “Lemon Laws” enacted by the states. A U.S. federal lemon law generally applies, even if the state laws are not applicable or are ineffective in addressing your specific situation.

Each state has a consumer protection “Lemon Law” on the books, and some states’ statutes cover more potential manufacturer defects than others. Some of the state laws are in favor of the RV manufacturer or seller. There is a lot of language in these laws that protect the RV manufacturer and dealer’s warranty repair shop. Yet, the essential intent of these laws is to protect consumers, and, to some degree, they provide relief for the buyer of the chronically broken RV.

One of the typical requirements of the lemon laws is that the product (vehicle) has a value of $25 or greater and is covered by an express (written) warranty. Suppose an RV buyer experiences extended periods where the RV is in the shop undergoing repair of defects and discrepancies not covered by the state statute; there is a federal lemon law, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is different in some respects from most state lemon laws.

Number of “repair attempts”

Most state laws incorporate a trigger for applicability by the number of repair attempts made under the vehicle warranty, within a specified time, such as 12 or 24 months, and may require that the “repair attempts” address the same defect. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act contains a broader definition, in that repair attempts to repair different discrepancies count in calculating the number of repair attempts over time.

The type of vehicles

Many state lemon laws apply only to new cars, light trucks, and SUVs. The federal lemon law applies to used vehicles as well. Among those states that do include RVs in their lemon laws, many impose arbitrary restrictions that hamper the applicability of the statutes for RV owners. An example of such limitations: Restricting the statutory applicability to vehicles of 10,000 pounds or less and limiting lemon law coverage only to chassis components, i.e., excluding all the “livability” items inside the coach cabin, such as furnaces, water heaters, lighting, air conditioners, and appliances.

New AND used vehicles

The federal law, unlike most state laws, applies to both new and used vehicles.

Warranty and arbitration

Another difference in the federal lemon law is relief for mandatory arbitration requirements instead of civil litigation. Mandatory arbitration requirements are rare in express warranties. Unless disclosed in the contract, there is no requirement to submit a case to arbitration under the federal statute unless such provision is incorporated into the written warranty and clearly stated.

Owned AND leased vehicles

State lemon laws often exclude leased vehicles. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act specifically includes them.

Damages

Most state lemon laws provide only for the recovery of the purchase price of the lemon vehicle. Interestingly, damages under federal law allow for a plaintiff to receive the difference between what the purchaser paid for the vehicle at the time of purchase, and what the price would have been had the defects been known at the time of purchase.

With the dramatic increase in the number of RVs being manufactured in response to soaring demand, warranty issues have substantially increased. Some RV buyers are experiencing frustrating, protracted wait times for their RVs to get fixed. The lemon laws are complex and marked by time elements and the whole “number of repair attempts” matrix. Consequently, there are law firms that have established a practice specialty in RV lemon law, such as the Burdge Law Office. The firm’s website addresses the specifics of lemon law, RV recall and defect information, and representation for aggrieved RV buyers.

##RVT1025

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Drew
1 month ago

This issue is becoming so big that it should really be taught as a subject in organizations like Escapees, FMCA, and others. As is always the case- an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. RV inspections by professionals should be as commonly performed as marine surveys are for large boats. In addition- the fallout from making a poor rv buying decision is so much worse than just doing your research ahead of time that you wonder why it’s done so often.

Edward
1 month ago

You people are chasing a dream and all I read about are the nightmares. Why not forget about buying an rv and stay in hotels and motels. The price of gas/diesel will only go up. RV quality is horrendous. You have to buy so many extra expensive accessories such as tire pressure monitors. The corporations are buying up the campgrounds. It’s going to cost you over $75 a night. Camping used to be a less expensive alternative, now forget it. When a lawyer has to specialize in rv lemon laws and then informs his clients that his fees will be $50K+ you know there is a problem. Can anyone explain why you would buy an rv when your chances of having a lot of problems are greater than 50%?

Linda
1 month ago
Reply to  Edward

I don’t consider my chances of problems to be greater than 50%. We have purchased three new motor homes models – 2013, 2017 and 2019. The 2013 had a few issues that were immediately addressed by the manufacturer. The next two have had very few normal wear and tear items. What you hear are the horror stories…for each one of those there are probably 100’s of happy RV owners. We just don’t write letters to newsletters because we’re too busy enjoying our coaches.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

To Donna and Martin, all I can say is WOW!

Donna B.
1 month ago

In 2004 we purchased a Forest River Sandpiper 5th wheel. It went back to the factory 3 times for repairs. The 4th time we removed everything and took it ourselves. When we picked it back up we ran a slide out to put some things away. A shear pin snapped, the slide pivoted and wiped out the side of the pantry. This was Good Friday 2005. We refused to take it and went back to Missouri. On Monday we got a call that it was ready to be picked up. We told them we didn’t want it back and cited Magnusson Moss. FR not only built us a new 2006 unit, they added all options and paid our expenses including highway tolls, fuel & hotel.

Tom B
1 month ago

Your state lemon law may only include vehicles with an engine (no trailers). Also, your state law may exclude out-of-state purchases.

Martin
1 month ago

We experienced one of the most egregious defective RVs we ever heard about. Our “high end” motorhome had so many problems it was in repair facilities for 54 weeks out of the first 36 months. It was even back at the factory on the west coast for eight weeks. The company flew out a technician for a week just to work on problems. We went through three head customer relation managers during those three years. We contacted a lawyer in Oregon whose only clients at the time were RV owners of our same brand who were in legal challenges. The only reason we didn’t continue the path of litigation was the fact that our attorney, who said we’d likely win our case, was that the company would likely string out the case two to three years, and our legal fees could run as high as $60,000-$70,000, with no assurances that the court would require the manufacturer to pay our legal fees.The company filed for bankruptcy in the early 2010’s. They eventually reemerged a few years later, to die again.