South Carolina Lemon Law

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The Basics

Q. Does South Carolina have a lemon law? If so, when did it become effective?
A. Yes, South Carolina has a lemon law which became effective October 3, 1989.
Q. When is a car considered a lemon under the law?

The law defines a lemon as a new motor vehicle (passenger car, van or truck) that:

  1. was bought on or after October 3, 1989;
  2. has a defect that impairs its use or will lower its market value substantially; and
  3. which the manufacturer cannot repair within a reasonable time.
Q. What is covered in the law?
A. Defects which do not substantially impair the vehicle's use, market value or safety are not covered. Also not covered are defects caused by the consumer's abuse, neglect or unauthorized alteration of the car, or defects that do not show within the first 12,000 miles or 12 months, whichever occurs first.
Q. Does the lemon law cover anything other than new motor vehicles?
A. No. It only covers passenger motor vehicles (cars, vans, small trucks).
Q. If I discover a defect what do I need to do?
A. You must notify the manufacturer (or its agent) of the defect during the term of the express warranty. The manufacturer must make any repair efforts at no cost to the consumer and within a reasonable amount of time. The law presumes a reasonable amount of time to be either three repair attempts for the same defect or thirty days out of service for repairs. The 30 days do not have to be consecutive.
Q. What happens if the manufacturer is unable to repair the defect?
A. If the defect cannot be repaired, the manufacturer has the option of whether to replace the vehicle or rescind the agreement and refund the money. If the manufacturer elects to rescind the agreement and refund the money, the refund must be for the full purchase price of the vehicle, less a reasonable allowance for the consumer's use. The full purchase price includes: 1) applicable finance charges and 2) all governmental fees, such as sales tax, license fees and registration fees.
Q. Describe the steps I must take in getting a refund or replacement for my vehicle.
A. Before you request a refund or replacement you must first participate in any arbitration procedure the manufacturer may have established (the decisions are binding on the manufacturer). This type mediation is know as an "informal dispute settlement procedure." The "informal dispute settlement procedure" must:
  1. set up requirements for consumer notification;
  2. be free from the manufacturer's influence;
  3. be free of charge to the consumer;
  4. generally settle the dispute within 40 days
Q. What can I do if I am not satisfied with the mediation decision?
A. If after arbitration, you remain unsatisfied, you can then file suit in the courts.Consumers should remember to buy cars only from reputable dealers and should read the warranty carefully and save all documentation related to the car and to any repair work for their records. If you have problems with your new car you should begin to keep the following records: a description of defects and details of contacts(including the date and name of the person with whom you spoke); a log of the amount of time the car was out of service and complete written records of routine service.
Q. If the lemon law does not cover the car I purchased do I have any other recourse or protection?
A. Possibly. The general law of sale, including warranty law may still apply. In addition, you can always file a complaint with the S. C. Department of Consumer Affairs.

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