Thursday, October 10, 2013

Got a New Vehicle? Make Sure to Document Any Problems!

Do you have a new vehicle?  If so, hopefully your first few years will be problem free.  But, if you have any problems with your new vehicle in the first year, make sure to document everything.  You never know if you will need it in the future.

Most consumers think that if they have a problem with their vehicle that the dealer cannot find or cannot fix, then the manufacturer will stand behind their warranty.  Unfortunately, for most motor vehicle manufacturers, this is not the case. In fact, many manufacturers will try to attach the consumer, claiming that the consumer is lying about the defect, is causing the defect because they are driving the vehicle wrong, is imagining the defect, or simply wants out of the vehicle because they cannot afford it.  For most manufacturers, customer loyalty goes out the window and the only thing that becomes important is the bottom line.  One way to make sure you have the best case possible, if you end up with a lemon vehicle and no way out but a lawsuit, is to build your evidence early on.
Keep a notepad and pen in your car.  When the vehicle malfunctions, write down what occurred, when and where the malfunction occurred, and under what circumstances it occurred, such as the temperature, speed of the vehicle, and length of time driving before the occurrence.  Of course, wait to make your diary notes in the notepad until you are in a safe location and off the road.  Or, if you prefer to keep the diary on your mobile device, you can do that too.  The key is to write it down as soon as possible after you experience the malfunction.
If the defect is something that can be safely recorded on video or in photographs, then take photographs and make videos.  Find some way of documenting the date and/or time in each photograph or video.

Keep your phone records and a list of the phone numbers you call related to the vehicle defects such as the local dealer's service center or the manufacturer's consumer hotline.  This way you can prove the contacts that you have had with the dealership and/or the manufacturer if they later deny it.

Make sure that you get repair invoices for each visit, and that the repair orders accurately describe the dates the vehicle was in the shop and the problems that your vehicle is experiencing.  It is alarming the number of repair orders that I see that do not properly document the dates that the vehicle was in the shop, do not properly describe the problem, or do not even include problems that the consumer brought the vehicle into the shop for. When the repairs are not properly documented, this can hurt even the best lemon law case.

If the dealer fixes the problem, then you won't need the evidence you have compiled.  But, if they do not, and the problem is a substantial problem, then you will.  And, it is certainly better to be safe than sorry when it comes to an expensive item like a motor vehicle that you need to get to work, to the grocery, or to the doctor's office.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

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