Lemon Car? Australian Consumer Law

Lemon Car? What You Can Do Under Australian Consumer Law

Have you bought a lemon car? Find out what you can do about you car if it has turned out to be a lemon.

Buying a car should be an exhilarating experience. However, it can become a nightmare if you’ve discovered that the car you just bought has a fault, or has several faults. If this happens to you, then you may feel frustrated or confused about how to solve the problem, especially after you’ve just paid a small fortune to buy the car.

Does Australian Consumer Law protect me?

If you’ve unexpectedly bought a lemon car, then you may be able to turn to Australian Consumer Law to help you solve the problem. Unfortunately, Australian Consumer Law doesn’t provide protection for all kinds of car purchases.

Cars bought at a private sale

Australian Consumer Law does not apply to cars bought at a private sale.

Cars bought at an auction

Australian Consumer Law does not apply to cars bought at an auction.

Cars bought through dealerships

Australian Consumer Law applies to all new and used cars bought through car dealerships.

Guarantees for cars bought through car dealers

Like other products that are protected by Australian Consumer Law, new and used cars bought from a car dealer have the following guarantees:

1. Fit for purpose

Cars bought from car dealerships must be ‘fit for purpose’. Getting the help of an expert to check the car for you can avoid some of the hassles of thoroughly examining the car, especially if you’re not a car expert yourself.
Whether you get help from an expert or not, Australian Consumer Law doesn’t expect you to find hidden problems with the car, since they aren’t easily detected. So that means that car dealerships can’t refuse helping you with your lemon car issues even for hidden problems.

2. Acceptable quality

Another consumer guarantee is that the car you bought must be of an ‘acceptable quality’. Your whole car is covered, so the entire vehicle must be of a satisfactory condition. Your car dealer can’t argue that only part of the car is covered, while part of it isn’t.

3. Free from defects

The car you bought also needs to be ‘free from defects’. The car dealer needs to guarantee that the car has no faults when you bought it from them.

Also, car dealerships can’t force you to get the car serviced with them after you’ve bought it. They can’t say that the consumer guarantees, like the ‘free from defects’ guarantee, only apply to buyers who have their cars regularly serviced with them. You have the right to get your car serviced anywhere, and the consumer guarantees still apply even if your car is regularly checked up elsewhere.

4. Must last for a reasonable amount of time

Your car needs to ‘last for a reasonable amount of time’. Car dealerships can’t shield themselves from this guarantee by claiming that they will only fix cars if the buyer has bought an extended warranty. The reason is because extended warranties don’t change consumer guarantees, and you are entitled to a solution from the car dealership if the car didn’t last for a fair period of time.

What if my lemon car has a ‘minor’ problem?

When any of the four consumer guarantees are not met after you’ve bought a car from a dealership, then you have the right to try and get an appropriate solution from the dealer, even for minor problems.
Australian Consumer Law says that if your car has a minor problem, then the car dealer is required to fix it within a reasonable time.

What if my lemon car has a ‘Major failure’?

If the car you’ve bought from a dealer has a major failure, then you’re entitled to a replacement or a refund from the car dealer.
What is a ‘major failure’?

You have the right to seek a replacement or refund from a car dealership if your car has a major failure, but there may be an argument between you and the dealership about the term ‘major failure’.

The motor vehicle sales and repairs industry guide to Australian Consumer Law explains that a ‘major failure’ is a problem with your car that is so significant that a reasonable consumer would not have bought the car if they had known about the full extent of the problem. This could mean that the car you bought is unfit for its normal purpose, unsafe, or very different from the description or demonstration model that was originally shown to you.

What if the dealer won’t give a replacement or refund?

If you can’t get a refund from the dealer for your lemon car, but you believe the car you bought has a major fault, then you should contact the Consumer Affairs or Fair Trading body in your State or Territory.

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