Anyone used the lemon law?

This post is more than 2 years old.

Various states, including Louisiana, have lemon laws to help protect consumers when purchasing cars. Has anyone actually used one of these laws? Let me explain why I'm asking, and why I'll never buy a Mini again.

Both my wife and I were very happy with our Mini, and it performed well for a good year. The car is like a go cart on crack and a pure joy to drive... when it works.

After a period of not using the car for a weeks, the car wouldn't start for us. We had a tow truck bring it in (the dealer is in Baton Rouge, and is the closest Mini dealer) we discovered that it was our fault for not driving it enough.

All of a sudden our "little bundle of joy" car actually had some responsibilities and we needed to make sure we drove it at least once a week.

That was incident #1.

So it worked fine for a few months and then began repeating the same behaviour. This time we brought it in and they said there were a few problems, including the thing that gets gas to the engine. (Sorry, I'm not a engine guy. I like cool cars, but don't ask me about the engines.) Once again they said it may be our fault for putting some bad gas in (bad gas?) but there were definite mechanical issues they said they fixed.

That was incident #2.

Then last week, the car once again had issues starting. We had it brought in last Monday. They kept it all week and said this time that the issue was with the little light in the trunk. Apparently it wasn't turning off and draining the battery. After having gone to Baton Rouge twice, I demanded they send the car back to me, and they did, which was nice. Friday night my wife and I used the Mini to go out and it worked fine.

That was incident #3.

Saturday (yesterday) I went to move the Mini around our main car so we could go to a party with the kids - and once again - the Mini refused to start. It's not a battery issue, as far as I know, as the engine was turning over, but sounded like it had an extreme cough. I revved the engine enough to keep it going and was able to move it, but then turned it off. The service engine light was brightly lit.

So, this is the 4th time now, and from how I read the law, it seems like I'm due either a full refund or a new car. This is absolutely insane since my wife and I haven't even put 500 miles on the car. As I said, it is just our date night/for fun type car.

I called the manager on Saturday and complained, and of course nothing could be done so we agreed we would talk tomorrow morning. How strong of a case do I have for getting my money back, and should I contact a lawyer?

Oh - and this car was bought from Brian Harris BMW of Baton Rouge. I don't think I have many readers in Louisiana, but you may want to avoid them. I can't say it is their fault, of course, but they keep returning a car to me in a so-called "fixed" state that is certainly not fixed.

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Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

Lafayette, LA https://www.raymondcamden.com

Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Scott Stroz posted on 5/21/2006 at 8:18 PM

Ray -

I personally have not filed any claims under a 'Lemon LAw', but my brother-in-law did in NJ. He had issues with his Ford Explorer almost from the day he got it. After several years, and trhreats of a lawsuit, he recieved some financial compensation (enoguh for him to but a boat), and the Explorer was actually repaired.

I know that, in NJ, the lemon law has terms simialr to, it has to be the same or realated issue, that can/is not repaired after 3 attempts, or something like that. I am pretty sure other states have more liberal interpretations of a 'Lemon'.

And, BTW, telling you have to drive the car once a week seems a bit odd. I have an old pickup truck that would sit for weeks (sometimes, months) without being used, and it would start without issue, all the time, everytime.

Comment 2 by djuggler posted on 5/21/2006 at 8:37 PM

I threatened to call down a dealership on the lemon law once and suddenly my car got the royal treatment.

Invoke it!

Comment 3 by Damien posted on 5/21/2006 at 8:38 PM

Well, the Mini Couper *is* a British car (think of The IT Crowd ep 2) <g>

Comment 4 by Steve House posted on 5/21/2006 at 8:55 PM

Ray, read your Lemon law carefully because many expire after 1-2 years or a certain number of miles. I was going to use it on my BMW I bought in FL after several things went wrong and then the problems cleared up. I actually went through 5 power window regulators on that thing. One even died just 3 days before I sold it!

Comment 5 by Mike posted on 5/21/2006 at 10:17 PM

Hi Ray,

Funny you should write this...I'm spending the day filling out Lemon Law paper work. We have Buick that has given us problems for the past 15 months. In NY only repairs that take place in the first 18,000 miles or 24 months can be applied to your Lemon Law case, so I would suggest finding out if something similar applies to you.

Good Luck!

Comment 6 by Brad posted on 5/21/2006 at 10:19 PM

Ray,

I'd say you'll have a hard time getting the law enforced, especially since you've had the car for a while.

I'd try a few things:

(1) I'd search around for another Mini repair center and give them a try. I'd suspect you could get it repaired at almonst any BMW repair center since the car is now made by BMW.

(2) The lemon law is a good thing. The fact is that some cars are lemons. I'm not saying that all cars are lemons, but some specific cars are. For example, Steve House was talking about having the window regulators replaced in his BMW 5 times.

I've owned 5 BMWs and it has never been an issue (however, there was faulty engineering in 1998 - 2002 3-series regulartors). In 2001 I purchased an new 330i. My friend purchased and identical model except for the color. I had no problems out of it at all, while my friend had problems with the windows, a leak, transmission and electrical system. His was constantly in the shop. When we looked into it, the only real difference was his car was manufactured on a Friday and mine was on a Tuesday. It turns out the defect rate on cars made on Fridays can be almost twice as high. Gee, I wonder why? ;-)

So with this knowledge I'd suggest talking to the dealer about a trade on a used Mini with about the same value or a big discount and trade on a new Mini. It will be a lot easier for the both of you than trying to take it through the legal system. You always have to factor in how much YOUR time is worth. With as much as you do, I'd say you'd end up loosing even if you won if you know what I mean.

(3) It sounds like a lot of the problems have to do with the fuel system. There may be some truth to the fact that you got some bad gas. With all the mess caused by the weather in your area, who knows how messed up the fuel supply network is in LA. If you've put bad gas in the car and it sits a lot it may be gumming up the fuel system and causing a lot of problems. At the very least I'd start the car up a few times a week and let it run for a few minutes. That way the fuel system can move the gas through and it'll be much easier on the engine because you'll be keeping the engine lubricated.

(4) Get it running and sell it yourself. The Minis have a pretty good resale value and with the low miles it should come in at a premium price.

Good luck. I hope everything works out.

Comment 7 by bobbybigballa posted on 5/22/2006 at 7:11 AM

i think that guys a mini dealer type employed dude... or something.

Comment 8 by Brad posted on 5/22/2006 at 8:00 AM

Nope...this guy is just one of those ColdFusion type developer dudes or something. Really. I'm just selfish--I'd rather Ray spend his time developing more great CF apps than spending his time with a lawyer. Yuck...just saying lawyer gives me the chills.

Comment 9 by Tony Petruzzi posted on 5/22/2006 at 4:45 PM

Ray,

Spend the money and contact a lawyer. All your going to do is waste your time trying to figure out the law yourself.

Comment 10 by Joshu Cyr posted on 5/22/2006 at 5:05 PM

Retain a lawyer. You can do so very inexpensively by just having him just write the letter saying something to the equivalent of "Ray has retained me to persue his legal case against your dealership. As a final sign of good faith we are delivering this letter of intent with the car. Should the car not be repaired to perform to poper and expected operating standards this matter will be taken to the courts."

You don't have to go through with it if you don't want to, but that little letter could provide the motivation the dealership needs.

Basically something with a top lawfirms letterhead counts for a lot, costs you an hours worth of their time and scares the crap out of them. Make sure the owner of the dealership gets a copy, along with a few others. This way if someone is doing something inappropriate others can find out.

Also, we had a very similar issue with an old camper. Kept going back to the same mechanic to fix it. Redid all the electric, and many other things. Finally we went to a new one. He found the problem. A clogged fuel filter. 15 cents and a 30 minute job later it worked fantastically.

Don't assume that just because it is a dealership they know better.

Comment 11 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/22/2006 at 5:31 PM

This is my plan. I'll be calling him in ten minutes. I'm going to express how angry I am, and ask straight out - will you give me a refund. If he says no, I'm going to say that I'll be speaking to a lawyer and checking into the lemon law. (Unfortunately, lemon is hard for me to say. This is totally off topic, but I have a bit of a speech problem and it centers around "le" and "de" type words. I bet most folks who heard me present had no idea, but I can stutter pretty bad at times. Anyway...) I don't want to leave it at just that as I still need it repaired so I'll still have to send it in anyway.

Comment 12 by mikeD posted on 5/22/2006 at 6:33 PM

So, what's the status?

Comment 13 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/22/2006 at 6:40 PM

The contact I had there who was a manager was only a service manager. I spoke with him today and he said this time when the Mini comes in they will do intensive testing on it. He said they don't do that all the time since it would take so long. I SHOULD have said, "Well why didn't you do it after the 2nd and 3rd time for me", but did not.

I then said - listen - I know you are in the service department, but I want you to express to whoever would handle this that I want my money back. He said he would.

I'll post when I hear more. Right now I'm just waiting for the tow truck to pick up the car.

The only good news I have to share is that my new Mac will be here in a few hours.

Comment 14 by Damien McKenna posted on 5/22/2006 at 6:51 PM

For your speach impediment you could try saying "li" instead of "le".

Comment 15 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/22/2006 at 7:12 PM

I do for linux, other words it is harder to switch.

Ah well.

My Macbook Pro is hear right now, getting updates.

Comment 16 by Dennis Jackson posted on 5/22/2006 at 10:11 PM

I am a CF programmer and until really recently a MINI owner.

I think that most of the important things have already been said here.

1. not all dealers are created the same, it would likely be worth your time to have a different set of folks look at it.
2. Laws vary and their are important limitations. In Ohio I believe the case was it had to be within 12 months of purchase. definately contact a lawyer and dont try to read the law yourself.
3. Bad gas can cause a lot of the problems described. I had a bad batch that caused my wifes minivan to stumble to the point of stalling. 300 dollars in repairs later.. it seemed fixed for a while.. drove a few hundred miles and it came back as bad as before. If you can run the tank to near empty, put in some STP or equivelent fuel system cleaner, and fill it up with some good gas (I like the chevron with techron). we did that and it all cleared up within a few hundred miles. (tough to do if you only drive 500 miles a year)

I hope that helps, and best of luck.

Comment 17 by Johnathan Gifford posted on 5/22/2006 at 10:41 PM

Ray,

As an avid BMW motorcyclist, I deal with many BMW dealers and hear complaints a lot. As Dennis pointed out, not all dealers are the same. If you find yourself making the choice to go to another dealer, call BMW North America before doing so. Express your disatisfaction with the dealer. Let them handle your issue because they will help your get Mini's issues resolved. Lemon Laws usually doesn't affect dealers, it only affects the manufacturer, and in this case dealer won't care unless their franchise agreement with BMW North America indicates such.

So take a minute, peruse the Mini and BMW sites to find thier contact numbers and call your car problems into BMW NA who will listen, obviously the dealer does not. Dealers hate getting pushed from the top. BMW can be really nasty if a dealership is not following the franchise rules or has a very disatisfactory complaint or two.

Comment 18 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/22/2006 at 10:56 PM

Not a bad idea Johnathan. Again, I'll post an update as the situation develops.

Comment 19 by Camio Trevino posted on 5/23/2006 at 12:09 AM

Oh Ray

gosh it kills me to hear how good people are having problems...

well In Ca, the law states that when you sell a car (used) you have to disclose the maintenance history, that mneans have the car been in an accident, no more smooth car sales-man tactics....

the lemon law covers this & more, but I had to respond becasue when I saw this post on the "go-cart on cark" that grabed my attention...

cleaver...

hope that this problem goes away

Comment 20 by virgilcletus posted on 5/24/2006 at 8:03 PM

I work at a rival (non-BMW) luxry car dealership. It really pains me to hear that you are having problems with a vehicle that has only 500 miles on it. I don't know anything about the lemon law, sorry dude. My only suggestion is to read as many reviews on a vehicle as possible. I really do hope you get your money back and have a chance to get a different fun vehicle.

if you're looking for a really fun coupe that is RELIABLE, you should check out the Scion Tc. I know it's not really the same as the Mini Cooper, but the buying experience might be more enjoyable because the price is the price and it's a few grand less than the mini. plus you shouldn't have to worry about it breaking down on you until it has 200-300K miles. (i don't work for Scion and am not even in sales btw).

Look on the bright side, the Lost finale is one tonight!

Comment 21 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/24/2006 at 8:21 PM

I thought folks would appreciate this update. The tow truck came on Monday afternoon to pick it up.

This morning I got a call from the dealership saying they had not gotten the car yet.

-boggle-

That was this morning, so hopefully the situation has resolved itself. (I called them but haven't heard back.)

Comment 22 by Penny posted on 8/2/2006 at 7:21 PM

I am a reader from Louisiana and I too have to deal with Brian Harris BMW for my Mini Cooper S. Yes, the battery runs down quite frequently, but amazingly when taken to Brian Harris, they say it tests fine. My last experience with them was just a routine service. After coming straight home and parking the Mini for several days there was a large pool of oil under it. I called and left messages and my message was finally returned, etc. etc. etc. to shorten my story, my Mini is finally getting towed to them today and they call me and say well, sorry we can't get to it until maybe Friday. This is ongoing for two weeks now. I love my Mini, but I don't love my service!

Comment 23 by Raymond Camden posted on 8/2/2006 at 7:36 PM

Sorry to hear that Penny. My wife and I decided not to go with a lawyer, but we are pretty bummed out. She doesn't trust the car anymore (I don't blame her), so now I guess we will just sell it. Brian Harris swears it is fixed, but after 5 service calls, I'm ready to get rid of it.