More than half of car buyers cite that reliability is the single-most important factor for why they bought the car they did, according to J.D. Power research. It ranks higher than price, options, and any other factor. Annual dependability ratings are a major source of information for car shoppers who want a trusted model, but it doesn’t always go to plan, does it?
In fact, another report J.D. Power puts out annually is the U.S. Initial Quality Study. For 2020, the best-ranked carmakers were Dodge and Kia, tied with 136 problems experienced per 100 vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership. All being equal, that means that car owners can expect a minimum of 1.36 problems within the first three months they own their car.
Plain and simple, new cars have problems too. But what do you do if you have serious issues with your new car? Or what about recurring concerns or multiple problems that come up?
Junk car buying service CarBrain’s COO Marcin Ladowski says, “Around 80 percent of our clients sell their cars to us because they’re having significant problems, mechanical or otherwise. What we’re seeing is an increase in ‘younger’ cars that have problems that are too expensive for the owner to fix. And sometimes, the owner might’ve missed out on opportunities earlier on to get it sorted out rather than selling it off.”
If your new car is having issues, there are escalating steps you can take whether it’s having repairs completed or exchanging vehicles.
Have the Dealership Perform Warranty Work
Carmakers that sell vehicles in the United States all have new vehicle warranties of three years or 36,000 miles at minimum. Mazda offers an unlimited mileage warranty while Mitsubishi and Hyundai have a five year, 60,000-mile new vehicle warranty. In most cases, powertrain coverage is even longer. So, if your new car is having a problem, the first stop should be at the dealership’s service department.
The normal repair process for new cars that have a manufacturer’s defect or premature failure is simple: repair or replace the component to OEM standards at no charge to the owner. If the diagnosis occurs on one visit and you need to return for repair when the part arrives, both visits should be viewed as a single instance.
Unfortunately, rates of repair are higher than you’d expect on new cars. During the course of 36,000 miles or three years, you might have six to ten warranty repairs needed, more or less.
Request a Replacement
If you’ve given the dealership the opportunity to repair a condition that they have identified and are unable to correct, or if the matter is very serious like a blown engine or a structural concern, you might be able to request a replacement vehicle from the dealership. Note that this is absolutely NOT a common procedure for a dealer and requires approval from the General Manager.
Before you’re given a replacement vehicle after requesting one, the dealer will likely attempt once more to fix the issue or find a mutually agreeable solution.
In the event a replacement is approved, you may be responsible for the depreciation on the car based on the mileage you’ve driven and the time you’ve owned the car.
Arbitrate with the Dealer
If you’re getting nowhere with the dealer in finding a solution to frequent, ongoing problems with a new car, you may want to get an arbitrator involved. In some instances, a mandatory arbitration clause may be set out in your car contract that prevents you from taking further legal action against the dealership.
Entering into arbitration is guaranteed to be a long, drawn-out process that involves frustration and is unlikely to satisfy both parties completely. However, you might be able to get at least a partial resolution whether that involves a monetary refund or credit or some other action.
Enact the Lemon Law
In the United States, ‘Lemon Law’ applies to all new car purchases under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. In addition, each state governs their own lemon law and sets out the criteria for a claim. Commonly, criteria include:
- Defects that occur under a pre-determined mileage limitation or time frame.
- Problems that involve the car’s physical operation, not simply cosmetic concerns.
- A minimum number of opportunities for the dealership to resolve the problem.
- A set number of days the shop has had your car in a year.
You’ll first need to compile all your supporting documents, then file a claim with the manufacturer. As an example, in Florida you must first provide written notice to the manufacturer by certified or express mail who then has 10 days for a final repair attempt before it goes to state-run arbitration. It only applies to cars that were purchased or leased new, and your claim must be filed within 24 months of purchase.
If you’ve bought a new car and you’re having what you believe to be serious problems, you have options. Start by having the dealership look at your issues before elevating it to the manufacturer or taking legal action as most concerns can eventually be corrected to your satisfaction.
Bianca Benedi is a Digital Content Specialist for CarBrain.com. She focuses on providing clear and helpful content to help consumers make the most informed choices.