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  • Lemon Law in Ohio

    There are few things in life as frustrating as a new car that just doesn't work quite right. Fortunately, Ohio's Lemon Law can help take some of the sting out of that.

    A Lemon Defined

    The state defines a "lemon car" as a new vehicle that has a single problem (or series of problems) that is covered by warranty that seriously impairs the vehicle's use, value, or safety.

    Vehicles Covered

    If your new vehicle is less than 1 year old or has less than 18,000 miles on it, and is either a passenger car, light truck, or a motorcycle, it's covered.

    Fixing the Problems

    If your vehicle has a problem, take it to the dealer or manufacturer and asked to have it fixed. They need to be given a "reasonable opportunity" to do so.

    What is considered to be reasonable? If at least one of the following is true, then you've done your part:

    • At least 3 attempts have been made to repair a single problem, and yet the problem continues or occurs again.
    • The vehicle has been in the repair shop for a total of at least 30 days.
    • At least 8 attempts have been made to fix varying problems.
    • At least 1 attempt has been made to fix a problem that could cause death or serious injury.

    (An example of the latter would be a brake problem that can't be rectified.)

    Setting the Lemon Law Into Motion

    If any of the above points applies to your case, then you have the right to ask the manufacturer to either replace your vehicle with a new one, or to refund the entire purchase price.

    Send a certified letter to the manufacturer. You'll have to detail the problems you've had with your vehicle, and what attempts were made to fix them. Make sure to include your vehicle identification number (VIN). Then, state which option you'd prefer, whether it's replacement or a refund.

    Keep a copy of the letter for your records.

    How to Proceed

    If the manufacturer is satisfied with your claim, it may yield to your request, and either refund the entire purchase price of the vehicle, or replace it with a new one.

    Many times, though, the manufacturer will ask to be given another attempt at fixing your vehicle. That's up to you. It may try to negotiate an agreement with you.

    Or, the manufacturer may disagree with your claim. If so, either the manufacturer or the dealer should let you know whether there is an arbitration program available.

    The Arbitration Process

    Arbitration is when a neutral third party listens to both sides, and makes a decision based on the evidence presented.

    Most manufacturers already have some sort of arbitration program. Some of these have been approved by the Attorney General. If your vehicle's manufacturer is on the approved list, you'll have to go through arbitration before you can file a lawsuit.

    Although arbitration is quicker than going through the court process, it usually will still take several weeks for your hearing to begin. You don't need to have an attorney. It can be difficult for a consumer to win an arbitration that forces the manufacturer to refund the purchase price. And, although the state has safeguards in place to try to insure fairness, know that most arbitration systems are funded by the manufacturers.

    Most of the time the arbitration takes place via a telephone conference call between all of the parties involved. Keep in mind that if you don't agree with the verdict, you do not have to accept it, and may proceed to the next step.

    Filing a Lawsuit

    If you choose to, you may then file a civil suit against the manufacturer. You can include attorney fees, too. This needs to be done within 5 years of the purchase date.

    How to Protect Yourself During the Process

    Although the state offers you protection, you'll need to take some responsibility, too.

    Make sure you keep an accurate record of each time you take your vehicle in for repair, or to have routine maintenance done. Follow the manufacturer's maintenance requirements closely, as the manufacturer may try to show that you haven't taken proper care of your vehicle.

    Also, keep all of the warranty and repair orders. Check to make sure all of the work done has been itemized on the order.

    And, get a log of your vehicle's problems and defects. If you need to go back to have a problem fixed, make sure to describe it the same way when you go back.

    Buying a Lemon

    As noted above, manufacturers may be forced to buy back lemon cars. If they do, they may resell them to someone else.

    If they do so, however, they must let the new potential buyer know in writing that the vehicle was returned because it did not conform to its warranty, and give you the reason(s) why it didn't.

    You should also receive either a warranty for 12 months or 12,000 miles, or the balance of the original factory warranty, whichever is greater.

    Should the manufacturer fail to do any of this, it faces possible legal action. Also, you could file a suit against them.

    Contact Information

    • Consumer Protection Section
    • 30 E. Broad St., 14th Floor
    • Columbus, OH 43215

    Consumer Protection Line: (800) 282-0515

    Also, find more information about Ohio's Lemon Law from the Attorney General.

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