Last night, I dropped my F-150 off at the dealership where I originally bought it. After that, I picked up a refund check. I owned it for nearly one year. During that time it spent 47 total days in the shop with engine problems.
After filing all the required forms and dealing with Ford and the Better Business Bureau, and then waiting almost 7 weeks, the matter was finally resolved. The resolution was for Ford to “repurchase” the vehicle from me.
This basically amounts to a full refund of the price of the truck, plus sales taxes, license, and registration. Was it difficult? Not really, though it was fairly involved. Was it adversarial? Not at all. Was it worthwhile? I would say yes, because even after all the repairs, I don’t trust that the truck will be reliable long-term .
Do you need to hire an attorney? Maybe. Below is the story of my truck and information on how to file a Lemon Law claim.
I purchased my 2016 F-150 in July of 2017. This pickup had 2,389 miles on the odometer yet it had never been sold to a customer. It was only used as a loaner vehicle – thus the miles on the clock. Since it had yet to actually be sold, I purchased it as a new vehicle. This is important to the story because the Lemon Law only applies to new cars in my state.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act was enacted in 1975 and it requires manufacturers of consumer goods to honor a stated warranty. It does not require that warranties are offered on products, only that warranties are honored if they are offered. This, of course, includes motor vehicles. Specifics vary from state to state, however, and some states’ Lemon Laws may exclude leased vehicles or commercial vehicles. Do check your state Lemon Law details before filing a claim.
In Utah, the Lemon Law states that, in order to qualify for as a lemon, the following must occur:
- The vehicle must have been purchased new
- Not more than 1 year can have elapsed between purchase and Lemon Law claim
- The vehicle must have been in the shop for the same issue 4 times (and it is still not resolved) or, it has spent more than 30 days cumulatively in the shop (doesn’t have to be for the same problem).
I never really did get a satisfactory answer about whether the 30 days in the shop are business days or total days. It didn’t matter in my case becuase it spent 47 total days and 35 business days, so it qualified either way.
My particular truck was equipped with the 2.7 liter Ecoboost V6. It had truly impressive power and torque. While I owned it, I used it for ordinary commuting and for hauling different cars around on a flatbed trailer. One was a 24 Hours of Lemons MR2, another was a 240Z I acquired, and a third being the Plymouth Arrow pickup I hauled to Radwood. Those loads were between 4,000 and 7,000 lbs, which is well under the rated towing capacity of the truck. In fact, the truck barely labored with these loads, despite the fact that it was conquering some of the toughest climbs in the country. I’m talking about the climb through the Sierra Nevada mountains between Sacramento and Reno, and the climb over I-70 from Grand Junction to Denver.
Just before the first long run I made in the truck, I noticed that it was two quarts low on oil. I filled it up and went on my way. It was about 11200 miles round trip to Montana. Upon my return home, the oil was low again, so I reported it to the dealership and they told me to bring it in. I did some research on the F-150 forums and found that there was a related Ford service bulletin about oil usage. I printed out the bulletin and took it to the dealer. After diagnosis, the dealer told me the truck would need new heads, and that they would have to order the parts. 12 days later I had my truck back, all fixed.
As it happened, I had a trip to California planned the following week. So I loaded it up, with a trailer and the Plymouth Arrow, and headed to Radwood at Hooptie-con. On the way, in Reno, I checked the oil – one quart low. So I added a quart and kept going. On the way back, somewhere around Truckee, a light came on on the dash and the engine de-rated its power. I limped into Reno and checked the oil again. Two more quarts low. I added two quarts and the warning light turned off and power was restored. Upon my return, I took it back to the dealer.
The diagnosis this time was a turbo. So they ordered a new turbo and replaced it. This repair took 11 days.
A couple of weeks later, I drove the truck for about 60 miles locally and when I exited the freeway, it was idling rough, so I rolled down the window and revved it some to listen to the engine. It had a major rod knock. So I limped it home and called the dealer. They towed it to the dealership and opened the oil filter up to find it full of metal shavings – likely bearing material. So, they ordered an engine and replaced the whole thing. This time, the truck was at the shop for 23 days.
By now, I’d already been doing a lot of research on my Lemon Law options. If you do a basic search for “lemon law” it returns thousands of results with info (good and bad), opinions, and a bunch of muck to wade through to get to actual, useful information. Eventually, I discovered that many manufacturers use the Better Business Bureau’s Auto Line program as the means of filing Lemon Law claims.
The BBB Auto Line process is fairly self-explanitory. If you visit their website, there is a list of details for each state’s Lemon Law and a list of participating manufacturers. If your car is on the list, and it meets your state’s qualifications, then you are in business.
From here, you fill out the basic information in the form on the BBB website. Your info, your complaint, the problems with the vehicle, etc. Once that is received and processed, you will receive an email that reads as follows:
A request for a BBB claim packet has been submitted.
The claim will first be reviewed to determine if it involves a warranty dispute against an automobile manufacturer. If the claim involves a warrantable defect or non-conformity, you will receive an email confirmation within the next business day with instructions on how to create an online account using the PIN number you provided when filing your claim. Please check your junk or spam folder if you do not see an email in your in box. The consumer account will have the initial claim packet including the Customer Claim Form (CCF) for printing. You may also upload your supporting documents including:
1. Copies of your repair orders;
2. Copies of your current vehicle registration;
3. A copy of your sales or lease agreement; and
4. Any other correspondence or notification letters related to your claim
A hard-copy of the initial packet will also be mailed to you. A copy of your complaint may be shared with the automobile manufacturer (where applicable) and a company representative may contact you to discuss a possible resolution.
The actual claim form is a non-fillable PDF file you have to print and fill out by hand. Once you have all the supporting documentation, you assemble the whole packet (mine was 18 pages) and FAX it to the BBB. That’s right, you fax it, which I found out is still a thing. When they receive the info, they upload your documents onto an online case-specific file that you can get into to reference your materials, add documents, etc.
[Editor’s note: So… they make you print something from the Internet, fill it out offline, fax it, then scan it back… onto the Internet?]
The BBB then submits this information to the manufacturer and they decide whether to grant the request for repurchase or replacement. This is the part where a lawyer may be useful. If there is gray area where you think your car qualifies, but the manufacturer does not, a lawyer may help tip the scales in your favor. They would also presumably prepare the paperwork properly to give you the best chance at success. I did not use a lawyer, and I’m glad I didn’t. Mine was a clear case, and easily met the requirements.
Keep in mind that the claim must be filed before you have owned the vehicle for 1 year, but the actual buy-back date may be after the 1 year window. About two or three weeks tends to go by before you get a response back from the manufacturer. In my case, Ford responded fairly quickly and offered to buy the truck back. I was actually surprised at how easily it all happened. I then was put in touch with Ford’s repurchase/replacement people and had to submit a few more documents, such as the sales contract and the financing contract.
The refund, if that’s what you choose, will be comprised of the following:
- The initial purchase price, in full
- Dealer service fee
- Sales tax
- Property tax assessment fee
- tire recycling fee
- Dealer added accessories (a spray-in bedliner, in my case)
All those items, added together are your refund, minus a use fee for the miles you added to the vehicle, which is calculated by the following formula:
(Current mileage – mileage at time of sale – 100 miles)/100,000 x purchase price on sales contract not including taxes and fees. I added about 11k miles to my truck, so the fee worked out to some $3200.
If you added any accessories or modifications after the purchase, those are not reimbursed.
Finally, Ford sent a check to the dealership where I purchased the truck and I exchanged the truck for the check. The check was in the amount of the difference between the actual refund and the amount owed to the bank for the remainder of the loan. Ford then writes a separate check to the bank to pay off the truck and get a title so they can get rid of it. The truck will then get a Lemon Law branded title and will be auctioned off to a dealer for resale.
And that’s it. Simple, right? It really wasn’t very hard. It was slow and a bit stressful and pretty involved, but not hard. I’d say I spent about 10 hours total on the preparation of documents, speaking with the BBB and Ford, and dealing with the dealership when I finally returned it.
One last note: Document everything. Phone calls, texts, emails, repair orders, everything. These may help you build a case if the vehicle doesn’t clearly qualify like mine did.
[Images copyright 2018 Hooniverse/Scott Ith]