Commercial vs. Residential Vehicles

Pennsylvania’s Lemon Law only applies to residential (household) vehicles.  It almost seems unfair, but vehicles used for commercial purposes are not covered.  That means a small business owner, say a contractor, could buy a big Ford pickup truck to use as his personal vehicle and for work and it would not be covered by the Lemon Law if there are recurring defects.  We also see this issue arise a lot with tractor trailer drivers.  The drivers have to buy their own rig, but can’t rely on the protections of the Lemon Law if that rig suffers from defects.  This holds true for the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Laws and the Federal Magnuson Moss Warranty Act.  So, are there any protections for commercial vehicles?

The primary legal protection arises from a standard breach of contract claim.  We see applicable breaches of contract under two scenarios:

First, the commercial vehicle comes with a defect.  In other words, you find a commercial truck you want to buy and it comes to you with a bad transmission.  You did not contract to buy that truck with a bad transmission.  As such, there is a breach of that contract if you are sold a truck with a defect.

Second, the commercial vehicle comes with a warranty that is not honored.  Technically, if a commercial vehicle suffers a defect that the warranty company is unable to fix it is a breach of warranty issue, and the Warranty Act doesn’t protect the business owner.  However, under some circumstances, we can frame it into a standard breach of contract claim and sue the warranty company.  Additionally, if the warranty company refuses to fix a defect that is covered under the warranty, then the warranty company is breaching the contract.

How do you know if your vehicle is commercial or residential?  It is pretty easy.  If the vehicle is used primarily for business, was purchased for business purposes, or was purchased with money from the business, it will likely be considered a commercial vehicle.  Where we see some interesting legal nuance is with the rise of private taxi services like LYFT and UBER.  Such services allow people to use their otherwise residential vehicles for a commercial purpose.  We are anticipating this issue to be placed before an appellate court in the near future and are really interested in the outcome.  There is a chance that these private drivers could be rejected from the protections of the Consumer Protection Laws.

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