A reader wants to know how to force the dealership to finally fix his broken-down ride.

Question:  I financed a 2014 Jeep Compass and three times already went in for service for the same problem to no avail each time. I still have the same problem — and this is supposed to be new car with less than 9,000 miles. What do you advise?

— Johnson in Pennsylvania

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Cars and homes are often the two most expensive items we’ll ever own, so I take a keen interest in questions like this. Sadly, you can live a frugal and responsible life and still get buried under debt if you get stuck with a broken-down car or house.

In your case, Johnson, there’s a law that protects you. It’s called a Lemon Law. These are state laws, not federal, so they vary by where you live, but they accomplish the same: Force the dealer to give you a refund or a replacement vehicle if you can prove the vehicle is a “lemon.”

Here’s the Pennsylvania Lemon Law. Like many state laws, it has some limitations, but you seem to qualify. First, you can’t have driven the vehicle more than 12,000 miles. Second,  the vehicle’s defect must “substantially impair the use, value or safety of the vehicle and occur within one year after delivery.”

Then you have to call “the manufacturer’s zone representative at the telephone number listed in your vehicle’s owner manual.” If the manufacturer won’t help you, you can ask for an arbitration hearing. If the decision goes your way, the manufacturer is bound by it — but you aren’t. You can then file a private lawsuit.

You might be thinking, “Wow, this can get very complicated.” Here’s some advice for shortening the process.

The next time you take your Jeep to the dealer for the next inevitable repair, print out your state law at the link above and take it with you to the dealer. I’ve heard many stories from clients over the years that simply showing the dealer a print-out of their state’s Lemon Law is enough to motivate the service department to fix the problem.

So try that first, Johnson, but if it doesn’t work, use the law and see if it works for you. Please tell me what happens, and if there’s anything I can do to help.

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for Debt.com. I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only Debt.com, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched Debt.com. I’m glad you’re here.

Published by Debt.com, LLC