ATV Lemon Laws
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When you purchase an ATV, you expect it to work properly. If it doesn’t, it’s not just disappointing, it’s also a waste of your time and money. You expect to be able to use your ATV, not wait while it’s repaired yet again for the same issue. Fortunately, if you have purchased an ATV that turns out to be a lemon, you have recourse with the law to ensure that manufacturers honor their warranties.
ATV stands for all-terrain vehicle. As its name suggests, it’s designed to travel over a wide variety of terrain. Although they’re technically able to drive on streets as well, they’re not typically street-legal in most US states. Most ATVs consist of three or four wheels, a seat meant to be straddled by its rider, and handles that are used for steering. Most are designed for a single person, but some, called tandem ATVs, have room for a passenger. ATVs operate similarly to motorcycles, except that the extra wheels give them additional stability when traveling at lower speeds.
Other names for an ATV include:
Most ATVs have either three or four wheels, but some are made with as many as six, but these are typically for special purposes. Dirt bikes are often also included in the technical definition of an ATV simply because they are designed for all-terrain travel rather than travel on roads. Other off-road vehicles may also be included under the American National Standards Institute’s definition.
In the US, ATV engine sizes range from 49 to 1,000cc.
ANSI is the American National Standards Institute and is a non-profit organization. ANSI is in charge of overseeing standards for systems, processes, services, personnel, and products within the United States. It’s also responsible for coordinating standards in the US with international standards so that American products can be sold internationally.
A lemon is typically a new vehicle that has at least one but possibly more defects that affect the safety, use, or value of the vehicle. State lemon laws may have legal definitions of lemon that must be met before there is relief available to the vehicle owners under the law. In order to legally qualify as a lemon, vehicles must have undergone a specified number of repair attempts or been out of service for a specified number of days.
Once a vehicle has been legally classified as a lemon, the vehicle’s manufacturer is obligated to repurchase or replace the vehicle in question.
Lemon laws aren’t federal, but state laws. Because they operate on the state level, they may or may not cover an ATV. Before pursuing any kind of relief from the manufacturer of your ATV, it’s essential to check into your state’s laws to see if your ATV is covered by the lemon laws there.
In Florida, for example, the state lemon laws do not cover vehicles that are meant exclusively for off-road use, and that includes ATVs. Other states may include ATVs in their list of vehicles covered by their lemon laws. For Floridians, that doesn’t mean there’s no recourse should their ATVs turn out to be lemons. There are other legal avenues to pursue.
There is protection for consumers at the federal level, not just the state level. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which was passed in 1975, is a federal law that requires manufacturers to honor their warranties. The law was passed in response to warranty fraud in order to protect consumers from warranty and disclaimer misuse.
The act does not require companies to offer a warranty, but if they do, it must comply with the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
An express warranty is an official, written warranty that a company provides for its products. Especially for larger purchases like an ATV, the warranty information usually is given to the consumer when they purchase the product. If a company violates the terms of their warranty and refuses to replace a product that doesn’t meet the standards set by the warranty, that’s when the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act applies.
The written warranty can’t be used to change an implied warranty, except for in terms of length. A limited warranty can restrict an implied warranty to match the length of the limited warranty.
An implied warranty is a set of standards that a product is expected to meet based on the sale conditions. Whether or not these standards are set down in writing doesn’t matter. A vehicle should be expected to run. A home should be expected to be habitable. If the company has made assurances that the product is fit for use for its intended purpose, that counts as an implied warranty.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act doesn’t define an implied warranty. An implied warranty is actually defined at the state level. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act does, however, limit disclaimers and ensures that there are remedies for consumers should a company violate an implied warranty.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act also prevents companies from limiting an implied warranty or making the warranty so narrow that it no longer covers problems that affect could limit the proper use of the product.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act does not guarantee that all warranties must be honored. There are exceptions to the law that protect the company from fraudulent claims by consumers. If the product was damaged while in the consumer’s possession by unreasonable use. Unreasonable use includes the misuse of the product and even a failure to properly maintain the product.
In the case of an ATV, this is relevant to what kind of relief consumers may be able to get under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. If the company that manufactured your ATV is refusing to replace or refund it, it may be that they either believe that the damage was caused by the consumer or believe that they can claim it was to avoid honoring the warranty.
The terms of warranties must be clear to consumers and available to them when they purchase the product or vehicle. This includes ATVs. If your ATV experiences a defect, the first step to take is to thoroughly read the warranty. That way, you will know exactly what the manufacturer promises with the warranty and what is covered by it.
Because often lemon laws don’t apply to ATVs, as is the case in Florida, there isn’t always a standard set of requirements that consumers must meet like there are for lemon laws (which require at least three repair attempts for the same issue or a total of thirty days out of service for a vehicle to qualify as a lemon). Exactly what the consumer is required to do in order to qualify for a replacement or a refund depends on state laws and what the provisions are for replacement or refund in the warranty.
A breach of warranty occurs when the product or vehicle doesn’t meet the warranty’s standards. If there isn’t a written warranty, your state’s definition of implied warranty would stand instead. The warranty should explain what actions a consumer must take in order to secure a refund or a replacement.
A breach of warranty is essentially a broken promise on the part of the manufacturer. The warranty, either express or implied, promised that the ATV you purchased would be useable and safe. If the ATV does not meet these standards, then a breach of warranty has occurred.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act made it easier for consumers to sue companies for breach of warranty. If the manufacturer of your ATV is in breach of warranty, but the manufacturer refuses to replace or refund your vehicle, there is legal recourse available to you under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. If you have experienced $50,000 or more in damages, you can sue the manufacturer in a federal court. If it’s less, you may need to sue in a state court or you may be able to join in a class-action lawsuit with others who are in the same boat as you.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act may make a lawsuit easier, but it also encourages consumers who are involved in a warranty dispute to instead go through an informal dispute resolution. Some warranties may actually require consumers to undergo dispute resolution first before pursuing a lawsuit.
If there’s a breach of warranty for your ATV and the manufacturer refuses to honor the warranty, you may want to consider legal action. Consult with an attorney so you can be sure that you’re taking all of the correct steps. State laws may differ and ATV warranties may differ even further depending on the manufacturer. An attorney can help you understand the terms of your warranty and whether a breach has occurred. Your attorney can also help you navigate any dispute resolution that the company requires before you can pursue a lawsuit.