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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > July 2012 > Is Your Car a Lemon?

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Is Your Car a Lemon?


Buying a car is a big decision. You have to consider price, efficiency, comfort, color, and other factors. Once you find your perfect car, what happens if it has serious problems and needs constant repairs? Is it a lemon?

What is a Lemon?
Ohio’s Lemon Law protects motor vehicles that have one or more problems, covered under the warranty, that substantially affect the value, use, or safety of the vehicle within the first year or first 18,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Even if a vehicle is new to you, it is only protected by the Lemon Law if the problems occurred during the vehicle’s first year or first 18,000 miles, whichever comes first. Most used cars are not covered by Ohio’s Lemon Law.

What is NOT a Lemon?
Ohio’s Lemon Law does not extend protections to the following:

  • Most used cars*
  • Vehicles with problems that occurred after the first 12 months
  • Vehicles with problems that occurred after 18,000 miles
  • Trailer or mobile homes
  • Recreational vehicles
  • Non-driving related parts of an RV (such as an appliance in the RV)
  • Trucks used for business or designed to carry more than 1 ton
  • Home appliances, such as a washer, dryer, or furnace

* The Lemon Law only protects vehicles with problems occurring within the first year or first 18,000 miles of use, whichever comes first, and most used vehicles are older or have higher mileage.

If You Think You Have a Lemon
If you have problems with a vehicle during its first year or first 18,000 miles of use, whichever comes first, take the vehicle back to the dealer. The manufacturer has a reasonable opportunity to repair the issue. If the problem could cause death or serious injury, the manufacturer has only one attempt to fix the problem. The manufacturer has three opportunities to repair a recurring problem that does not endanger the owner. If there are multiple problems, the manufacturer has eight opportunities to fix the problems. When the problems can’t be resolved after a reasonable opportunity, the vehicle may be deemed a lemon.

If the problem is not corrected after a reasonable opportunity, you might be eligible for a refund or replacement, even if the problem was discovered late in the protection period and the repair attempts extended beyond the protection period.

To request a refund or replacement, send a certified letter to the manufacturer listing your name and contact information, the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), the problems with your vehicle, the attempts to correct the problems, and whether you want a replacement or a refund. Keep a copy of the letter for your records.

For more information on what to do if you believe you have a lemon, refer to the Ohio Attorney General’s brochure on the Ohio Lemon Law here. Remember that most used vehicles are not covered by the Lemon Law, and you generally don’t have the right to cancel the purchase of a vehicle once you have signed the paperwork.

To file a consumer complaint, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.