Lemons Have Car Buyers Seeing Red

ByABC News via logo
April 25, 2001, 11:49 AM

N E W   Y O R K, April 26 -- How can two car buyers legally get squeezed by the same lemon? It happens more than you might think.

Good Morning America's consumer correspondent Greg Hunter says car manufacturers buy back thousands of cars from unsatisfied customers each year.

Of the 45 million used cars sold each year, it is estimated that 75,000 have been repurchased by manufacturers under various state "lemon laws." Some are resold in other states and it's all legal.

50 Ways to Lose a Lemon

Fifty different statutes in 50 different states confuse and enrage consumers who end up buying a used car that's been officially labeled a lemon in another state.

Scott and Laurel Baker found out about this the hard way. After the couple purchased their used 1997 Kia Sportage from a Pennsylvania car dealer, they began to smell a problem.

"It's almost like the engine is on fire," recalls Scott Baker.

Despite the car's apparent mechanical problems, Baker, a former car salesman himself, didn't suspect that he'd bought a lemon -- until he attempted to refinance it. Baker was speechless when the bank handed him a CarFax report stating his Sportage had been branded a lemon in New York State in 1999.

"It's like one of those things you see on TV," says Baker. "You say this will never happen to me, and it did."

The Pennsylvania dealer bought and sold the Sportage twice after it had been declared a lemon in New York. The first time, Leighton Kia posted a Kia buyback disclosure on the vehicle. The second time it sold the Sportage, it did not.

Pennsylvania laws do not require that dealers disclose lemon information the second time the car is sold. So even though the car was judged a lemon in an adjoining state, the dealer didn't have to tell anyone about it.

Leighton claims the car is no longer a lemon since the problems were repaired.

Message in a Monte Carlo

Connie and Wayne Bagwell thought they got great deal on a low mileage used car. They had no idea the car had a secret past --