How To Prepare for Battle
In order to determine if you truly have a lemon and to build a solid argument, make sure you've taken the following steps.
First, run vehicle history reports from Autocheck and Carfax. Van Alst also recommends a check of the federal government's National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, which can be obtained through various vehicle-history vendors at a low cost. These reports expose many of the hidden problems associated with used cars, such as prior accidents and branded titles. Edmunds recommends that buyers run all three reports if possible. They can sometimes uncover different information. An important fact to consider: U.S. states do not require insurance companies to report when they fix a vehicle, although Canada does.
Do not rely on reports alone. Take the car to a qualified mechanic and a body shop that can spot signs of structural damage. Make sure they put it up on a lift. As with vehicle history reports, this is best done before the vehicle purchase, but if you're trying to press your rights under state or federal lemon laws, it's critical to determine the source of the vehicle's problem.
Document the vehicle's service history and retain all work orders and receipts. Download or print a vehicle repair log from Fraud Guides or Microsoft.
If the dealer still won't provide satisfaction, or if you suspect fraud, send a complaint in writing to the vehicle's manufacturer and your state's attorney general's office or department of consumer protection. The federal government's Consumer Action Web site provides detailed information on how and where to file complaints (including sample letters), dispute resolution services, small claims court and more.