CONSUMER

Utah’s lemon law: Why the rules could leave you in a financial squeeze

Feb 15, 2024, 10:38 PM | Updated: Feb 16, 2024, 7:58 am

WEST VALLEY CITY – There are motorized vehicles we buy for need, such as a car or pickup. Then there are the motorized vehicles we buy for play, such as an ATV, a side-by-side or a golf cart.

Vehicles built for recreation can be just as expensive as a car. But if you believe Utah’s consumer laws protect you if your expensive toy turns out to be a complete lemon, Bryan Jorgensen’s experience might leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.

A lemon of a golf cart

“It has literally less than 90 miles on it,” Jorgensen said of his new golf cart with a kaput engine.

Jorgensen bought the gas-powered vehicle from a Texas supplier. When it died, he hauled it to a local repair shop. They told him the engine was in such horrible shape, that it was beyond repair.

“They said that when they were building the cart, they must have done something wrong with the engine,” Jorgensen said. “And like the flywheel busted off, and a bunch of different things.”

Bryan Jorgensen with Matt Gephardt

Bryan Jorgensen shows KSL’s Matt Gephardt a golf cart he says was rendered a lemon by a manufacturing default. (Winston Armani, KSL TV)

The supplier that sold Jorgensen the machine asked him to ship that engine back to them in Texas, so they could inspect it. It was sent last July, but it’s been nothing but back-and-forth since he said.

“I’ve spent 7,500 bucks on this thing,” he said. “And it doesn’t work or operate.”

Now, Jorgensen says he can’t get any clear answers on when he may actually get to drive around in his pricey toy.

“I said, ‘You can come pick it up and refund my money.’ They didn’t want to do that,” he said. “I said, ‘Give me an engine then, so I can get it up and running.’ They haven’t done that.”

Frustrated, Jorgensen asked me to investigate.

Limits of Utah’s lemon law

We specifically looked into the laws and rules you might assume would cover you if a motor vehicle purchase goes awry.

Katie Hass

Katie Hass, Utah’s Consumer Protection Division director, explains what is covered under Utah’s lemon law. (Jeffrey Dahdah, KSL TV)

“The lemon law is designed to protect consumers who bought a brand-new car that continues to have issues,” said Katie Hass, director of Utah’s Division of Consumer Protection, the agency that oversees Utah’s lemon law.

But there is an important caveat.

“This law covers vehicles that are approved for highway use,” Hass said. “It would not cover an ATV that’s not approved for highway use. A golf cart would not be covered.”

Even when dealing with cars intended for the highway – cars, trucks and SUVs – Utah’s lemon law has a very narrow scope. The car must have been bought in Utah, weigh less than 12,000 pounds, have undergone unsuccessful repairs for the same defect at least four times, and it must have been bought brand-new.

But that doesn’t mean Jorgensen has no recourse.

“Even if it doesn’t fall under the lemon law, people are welcome to come and complain to us about something that they feel like was inherently deceptive,” Hass said. The definition of deceptive, under the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act, can include things like not honoring a warranty.

On the road again

Before going down that road, the KSL Investigators reached out to the Texas-based golf cart supplier on Jorgensen’s behalf.

By phone, the manager told me they believe the engine was further damaged in shipping, to the point it could not be repaired, and must be replaced. But due to supply chain issues, they’re having trouble getting their hands on a new one.

But after our calls, the manager told me they would pull an engine out of another golf cart and send it to Jorgensen.

After KSL’s Matt Gephardt reached out to the supplier, repairs were finally completed on Bryan Jorgensen’s golf cart. (Tanner Siegworth, KSL TV)

So finally, after spending the better part of a year parked, his cart is back on the road.

“Once you got involved, Matt, they said, ‘We don’t want the bad publicity from NBC. We want this done right,’” Jorgensen said. “And they’ve worked well with us ever since then.”

Utah’s lemon law has been in place since 1975. Hass said she isn’t aware of any talk in state government to expand it to include other motorized vehicles like side-by-sides or golf carts.

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Utah’s lemon law: Why the rules could leave you in a financial squeeze