The Ohio Lemon Law dictates that any new vehicle covered by a warranty that has a serious defect covered by that warranty must be repaired, replaced, or refunded.
Before requesting a replacement or refund, the buyer must give the manufacturer a “reasonable opportunity” to repair the defect.
If that’s not possible, the manufacturer must either replace the vehicle with an acceptably identical vehicle or buy the vehicle back.
Ohio Lemon Law Rules for New Cars
Ohio’s lemon law is geared toward the newest vehicles with valid warranties still in effect.
This means it applies to all new vehicles sold at car lots.
Lemon Law Requirements for New Vehicles
The lemon law applies in Ohio if:
- Your vehicle is still under the original manufacturer’s warranty.
- The issue you are having with the vehicle is covered by that warranty.
- The issue you are having with the vehicle “substantially impairs” the use, value, or safety of the vehicle.
- The vehicle has multiple issues covered under the warranty which cumulatively add up to excess repair attempts.
- The vehicle came with the issue(s). (i.e. You didn’t drive it off the lot and immediately sideswipe a curb, jacking up the running board or suspension.)
If your car meets the definition of a “lemon” in Ohio, the car dealership/manufacturer is required to do one of the following things:
- Repair the car within a reasonable number of attempts
- Repair the car within a reasonable number of days
- Replace the car with an identical or equivalent vehicle that is acceptable to the buyer
- Buy back the car for a refund
Repair the car within a reasonable number of attempts
What constitutes a reasonable number of attempts to repair an individual issue with a vehicle in Ohio is three (3).
The exception to this is if the issue with the vehicle is a serious safety hazard which could lead to death or serious injury, in which case the number of unsuccessful repair attempts drops to one (1).
If the vehicle has multiple issues covered under the warranty which require repair, the dealer has eight (8) combined attempts to correct the issues.
If the dealer/manufacturer cannot correct a single defect after three attempts (one in the instance of a serious operational/safety issue) or multiple defects after eight attempts, the dealer must allow you to return the car for an identical (or comparable) vehicle or refund.
Repair the car within a reasonable number of days
What constitutes a reasonable number of days in Ohio is 30.
If a vehicle is in the shop for more than 30 days for all of its combined defects within the lemon law time frame, the dealer/manufacturer must allow you to return the vehicle for an identical (or like) vehicle or refund.
These 30 days do not have to be consecutive. They are cumulative. Any time your car is in the shop within the lemon law period counts toward your 30 days, even if they occur months apart.
Replace the car with an identical vehicle
If the dealer/manufacturer cannot repair the vehicle within the allotted number of attempts or days, they must allow you to return it.
When you return the car, you may request a replacement vehicle.
This replacement vehicle must be similar enough to the original vehicle (same make, model, have the same features, etc.) and acceptable to you.
The manufacturer is responsible for any additional taxes and fees associated with the exchange.
Accept a return of the vehicle for a full refund
If you do not want a replacement vehicle after your first vehicle turns out to be a lemon, you may request a refund from the manufacturer instead.
When refunding a lemon, manufacturers must refund the full buying price of the car (including all taxes, fees and interest paid on the loan).
Ohio Lemon Law Rules for Used Cars
All vehicles within the lemon law coverage period are subject to the lemon law in Ohio.
This means relatively new previously-owned vehicles with low mileage may be eligible.
The lemon law applies to used cars in Ohio if:
- The vehicle is still under the original manufacturer’s warranty.
- The original warranty passed to the new owner.
- The issue with the vehicle is covered by the warranty.
- The issue with the vehicle was not caused by improper use by the former owner.
- The vehicle is still within Ohio’s lemon law eligibility period.
What about used cars with no warranty?
If a used car has no warranty in effect, the lemon law doesn’t apply.
The idea behind a lemon law is that it protects consumers from real “lemons,” those vehicles that are nonoperational, unsafe, or damaged right off the manufacturing line.
Used vehicles with no warranty are sold “as is” and it is your responsibility as a consumer to do your due diligence before buying.
This doesn’t mean you don’t have some recourse if you get a bad car. You can always attempt to return the car or report the dealership to the Consumer Protection division in the state. You just won’t find your justice under the lemon law.
Ohio Lemon Law Time Limit
The time limit in Ohio for filing a lemon law claim is five (5) years after the original date of delivery.
This time limit includes both the arbitration process and any filings made through the courts.
But the lemon law eligibility period expires well before that.
A vehicle (new or used) is subject to the lemon law in Ohio if:
- The issue(s) occurs within 12 months of purchase/delivery, or
- Within the first 18,000 miles
Whichever of the two come first.
Only the first repair attempt must be made within this time period.
As long as the issue is first reported within the first 12 months or18,000 miles, the vehicle is still eligible for a lemon law claim.
How do I file a lemon law claim in Ohio?
Before filing a lemon law claim in Ohio, you must request a replacement vehicle or refund directly from the manufacturer.
To do this, send a certified letter to the manufacturer at the address found in the vehicle’s owner’s manual with the following:
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
- A list of the issues with the vehicle
- A list of all repair attempts
- A specific request for either a replacement vehicle or refund
The manufacturer must contact you to tell you whether they agree to the replacement or refund or want to go through arbitration. (If they do not contact you, you can proceed to arbitration).
There are approved arbitration programs in the state, so if the manufacturer suggests arbitration, make sure to check with the Ohio Attorney General to ensure their arbitrator is approved.
If a manufacturer’s arbitrator is approved, you MUST go through arbitration before filing a lemon law claim through the courts.
Information on filing a claim for arbitration should be available in the warranty paperwork of your vehicle.
If not, you can contact the Consumer Protection division for help.
General Lemon Law FAQ
To further your understanding of lemon laws, here are some frequently asked questions about how they pertain to vehicles.
What is a lemon law?
A lemon law is a law that protects consumers from defective products or “lemons,” generally by enforcement of a warranty.
What is a lemon car?
“Lemon car” meaning varies slightly from state to state, but, in general, if a new car has a defect the dealer or manufacturer cannot fix, that car is a lemon.
Defects in lemon cars typically affect the operation or safety of a vehicle, but not always. Structural issues that affect that value of a car are also covered.
Is there a federal lemon law?
There is no federal lemon law specifically geared toward vehicles.
However, there is a federal warranty act called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act which protects consumers from false or misleading warranties and makes warranties easier to enforce.
Since cars sold by dealerships typically come with full warranties, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act applies to them.
This act serves as the basis for state-specific lemon laws.
What’s in the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (as it applies to vehicles)?
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act includes several key points that pertain to vehicle warranties. These points are:
- No product is required to have a warranty (and many used cars don’t).
- The terms of a warranty must be fully disclosed in simple, understandable language.
- Any ambiguity in the language of a warranty is held against the warrantor (in this case, the manufacturer or dealer).
- Warrantors cannot require only branded parts be used with their products for a warranty to remain valid (Ford can’t require only Ford parts be used on your vehicle).
- Service contracts must follow these same rules.
Basically, if you feel like you’ve been duped by a warranty, you may have a case under the Magnuson-Moss Act.
And if your vehicle comes with a “full warranty”:
- A dealer/manufacturer must repair any defect for free within a reasonable amount of time/reasonable number of attempts
Or, if the dealer/manufacturer cannot repair the vehicle, they must:
- Replace the vehicle with an exact-match vehicle or allow you to return the vehicle for a full refund (including all taxes and fees)
Does the federal lemon law cover used cars?
If the used cars come with warranties, it does.
The Magnuson-Moss Act is not directed toward products themselves, but the warranties which cover them.
So, if you bought a used car that came with both a defect AND a warranty that covers that defect, the dealer must either repair your vehicle (in a satisfactory manner).
If they fail to do so, you can seek restitution under the Magnuson-Moss Act.
You may be able to come to an agreement with the dealer through arbitration, but, more likely, you will have to take the matter to court.
Does the lemon law apply to leased vehicles?
Yes. In Ohio, the lemon law applies to leased vehicles that are new and under a manufacturer’s warranty.
Chucking A Lemon In Ohio
When you buy a new car, whether you really need one or are just looking for an upgrade, there’s nothing worse than getting it home only to discover it’s a non-functional dud.
But manufacturers shouldn’t be shipping dud cars to dealerships and dealerships shouldn’t be putting dud cars out on their lots.
That’s the point of lemon laws, to ensure new vehicles driven off of car lots are safe, functional, and free from major defects.
So, if you think you’ve gotten a lemon car in Ohio, you shouldn’t accept it and you shouldn’t delay.
You do have recourse, and the sooner you bring the issue to the dealer’s and manufacturer’s attention, the stronger your “lemon” claim will be.