Missouri’s Reasonable Allowance for Use

March 9, 2010

All 50 states have a lemon law; 48 states allow a manufacturer to subtract some amount from what it would otherwise owe a a consumer, because of the consumer’s use of the vehicle. The idea is that a consumer is going to give the manufacturer back a vehicle with more miles on it than when it was sold.  

Ohio and Nevada law do not specifically allow for a reduction based on a consumer’s use of the vehicle, but of the other 48 states, 47 give some indication how to calculate this offset. The odd state out is Missouri.

Missouri law indicates only that a manufacturer can subract “a reasonable allowance for the consumer’s use of the vehicle.”

The Missouri legislators were aware that other state laws give more precise formulas, yet chose not to enact a statute with such guidance. The only conclusion we can draw is that Missouri wanted this offset to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. Depending on a consumer’s use of the vehicle, different amounts of offset may be reasonable.

Unlike many other states, Missouri law emphasizes “use” instead of  mileage attributable to the consumer.  Some states look to the total miles driven until a repurchase or replacement by the manufacturer, other states use only the miles driven by the consumer until a certain number of repair visits. A few states calculate a certain amount of cents per mile driven by a consumer. A number of state laws further provide that the total offset should not exceed a certain percentage of the purchase price, regardless of the miles driven.

Eleven states, including the bordering states of Illinois, Oklahoma, and Kentucky, use almost the same language:

[The] amount directly attributable to use by the consumer prior to the first notice of the nonconformity to the manufacturer and any subsequent period when the vehicle is not out of service by reason of repair.

The first report to the manufacturer may be the first repair attempt, or it may not be until the manufacturer (not the local dealership) is directly notified about the problems with a vehicle. The statute makes clear, though, that any mileage put on by the dealership for repair attempts or test drives should not count against the consumer.

Because the Missouri lemon law is vague, a number of factors can be considered in determining a reasonable allowance for usage, including: 

  • what the offset would be using other states’ lemon laws,
  • the mileage at the time of purchase,
  • the mileage at the first repair attempt,
  • the mileage at the 4th repair attempt (when it is presumed to be a lemon under the Missouri lemon law),
  • the number of miles attributable to repair attempts, and
  • the consumer’s expected usage compared to the actual usage. 

This is not a definitive list, and the manufacturer may not agree with this analysis. But the Missouri lemon law does provide an opportunity for a consumer to argue for a lower allowance for use, thus putting more money in the consumer’s pocket.

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