Q: What does the lemon law do?
A: Under certain circumstances, it requires manufacturers to replace or buy back an owned or leased vehicle with a defect that substantially impairs its use, value or safety, and that cannot be or has not been properly repaired or repaired in a timely manner.
Q: What vehicles are covered by the lemon law?
A: The following vehicles are covered by the lemon law:
1) motor vehicles;
3) motor homes (engine and chassis; does not include interior items such as refrigerators or stoves); and
4) "light" trucks (those which are designed to carry a load of no more than one ton, and which are not used in the course of a business for profit).
Recreational vehicles, including boats, are not covered.
Q: Is there a lemon law for used cars?
A: Generally, no. The only used vehicles that are covered by the lemon law are those that are re-sold within the first year or the first 18,000 miles of operation, and problems are reported within the first year or 18,000 miles in order to be covered.
Q: How do I know if I have a lemon?
A: All new motor vehicles come with a warranty from the manufacturer. The warranty states that the manufacturer will pay for parts and labor if the problem is one that is covered. If you are having a substantial problem with your new vehicle and the problem is covered under the warranty, your first move should be to bring it to the dealer so that the problem can be correctly diagnosed and repaired. If, however, the dealer is unable to correct a problem after a reasonable number of attempts or days out of service, you may have a lemon.
Q: How many attempts must be made to repair a vehicle before it can be considered a lemon?
A: Before a vehicle can be considered a "lemon," there must be a manufacturer's defect that "substantially impairs" its use, value or safety. If one or more of the following circumstances occur within the first year or 18,000 miles, the manufacturer, through the dealer, is presumed to have made a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle if:
1) substantially the same problem has been subject to repair three or more times, and still exists or recurs;
2) the vehicle has been out of service for a total of 30 or more calendar days for repairs;
3) eight or more attempts have been made to repair a substantial problem covered by the warranty;
4) there has been at least one repair attempt for a safety-related problem, and the problem either continues to exist or recurs.
Q: If I think I have a lemon, what steps should I take?
A: You should continue to work with your dealer, if you can, to have the problem corrected. You should also contact the manufacturer's representative. Sometimes a technical problem may exist, which is beyond the ability of the dealer's service department to diagnose or correct. The manufacturer's representative may ask to inspect or operate the vehicle in an attempt to arrive at a correct diagnosis or proper repair. If the manufacturer's representative is also unable to get the problem fixed, you should ask the representative to authorize the replacement of your vehicle or to buy it back. Depending on the nature of your problem, you may be able to negotiate a satisfactory settlement in this way. If you are unable to reach an acceptable agreement, you may request that your dispute be arbitrated, if arbitration is available. If not, you may want to consider litigation.
If the vehicle manufacturer is one that uses a state-certified arbitration board, you must go through the arbitration process before you can go to court in order to be compensated through the lemon law. (Subaru, for example, is affiliated with an arbitration board, and arbitrations are not mandatory.) There are two arbitration programs in Ohio: the National Center for Dispute Settlement (NCDS), which handles arbitrations for Mitsubishi, Lexus and Toyota products; and the Better Business Bureau (BBB AUTO LINE), which handles arbitrations involving General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, Kia and other manufacturers' products. If the vehicle manufacturer (for example, Subaru) has not been given state certification for its own arbitration board, you may choose to go through arbitration or pursue the matter through an attorney. Also, if you are dissatisfied with an arbitration decision, you may pursue your right to sue the manufacturer under the provisions of the lemon law.
Q: I bought a new car in November 2001. Recently, I've been having problems with my transmission, and have been to the dealership four times to try to get the problem resolved under my warranty. Am I covered by the lemon law?
A: Probably not. The lemon law remedies are available where manufacturer defects covered by the warranty have occurred and have been reported within the first year after a new vehicle is placed in service, or during the first 18,000 miles of operation, whichever occurs first. You should look back at the repair orders you were given when you took your car in for service. If the mileage on the car at the time of repairs was more than 18,000, you are not covered by the lemon law. Similarly, if the dates on the repair orders are later than November 2002 (one year after your car was placed in service), the lemon law will not apply. You should continue to request and expect service under the terms of your warranty, and contact the manufacturer's representative if the dealer seems unable to correct the problem. Some arbitration programs will also hear warranty disputes, even if your problem occurred after the first year or 18,000 miles of operation (while the vehicle is still under warranty), and even though your vehicle would not be covered by the lemon law.
Q: How can I find out more about the lemon law and other consumer-related issues?
A: For further information or to file a consumer complaint, write to the Ohio Attorney General's Consumer Protection Office, 30 East Broad Street, 14th Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215-3428, or call the toll-free Help Line at 1-800-282-0515. For online information or to file a complaint, consult http://www.ag.state.oh.us .
Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. This article was prepared by the office of the Ohio Attorney General and updated by David L. Strawser, lemon law adminstrator for the Attorney General's Office.