Man on the phone looking under the hood of his car


Ronald S. Weiss Feb. 24, 2021

There’s an old saying that says “when life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.” But if that lemon happens to be a new automobile that you just leased or purchased, you should instead exercise your rights under federal and state laws to get a refund or replacement vehicle.

According to Statista, provider of market and consumer data, somewhere between 14 and 15 million cars and light trucks were sold in the U.S. in 2020 — a downward result owing to the pandemic. If you acquired a new vehicle that turned out to have significant defects that forced you to return it to the dealership for multiple repair attempts — and it’s still not working right — you may have the right to receive either a refund or a replacement vehicle under Ohio and Michigan lemon laws.

If you have purchased or leased a lemon and want to correct the situation through reimbursement or replacement, call Ronald S. Weiss, Attorney today for help. For more than 27 years, our firm has proudly served clients throughout Ohio and Michigan.

How Does the Law Define a Lemon Vehicle?

What constitutes a lemon vehicle typically varies from state to state, but in general a lemon is generally described as one that:

  • Has a substantial defect covered by a warranty that occurs within a certain period of time or mileage on the vehicle;

  • Has not been fixed after a law-specified reasonable number of repair attempts;

  • Has spent 30 days or more at the dealership for repairs within the first year of purchase.

If you are in Ohio, additional provisions include:

  • eight or more repairs in an effort to fix various problems; or

  • one attempt to repair a defect that was likely to cause death or serious injury.

The two concepts to remember here are “substantial defect” and “reasonable number” of repair attempts. These can vary in definition from state to state and can become contentious issues in a lemon refund or replacement claim. 

Even with mileage on the odometer, if the vehicle purchased or leased is still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, it may still be covered by lemon laws in Ohio and Michigan. It doesn’t have to be fresh off the delivery truck to qualify.

Pursuing a Refund or Replacement Vehicle Under Michigan’s Lemon Law

If that lemon you purchased or leased has convinced you to move on and pursue a refund, that may be entirely possible under Michigan state law. Alternatively, you may be able to obtain a replacement vehicle.

With a refund, you can find a new dealer or choose a different type of vehicle altogether — or put your money in your bank account while you contemplate purchasing a new vehicle. With a replacement, you can obtain a comparable vehicle and hope that the lemon curse doesn’t strike twice. What’s important to remember is that it’s your choice legally, not the dealer’s.

Michigan Lemon Laws define substantial defects as any “defect or condition that impairs the use or value of the new motor vehicle to the consumer or prevents the new motor vehicle from conforming to the manufacturer’s express warranty.” A “reasonable number” of repair attempts is typically defined as either: 

  1. Four or more attempts within two years of the first repair attempt; or

  2. Defects rendering the vehicle out of service for 30 or more days, or parts of days, within one year from the date of delivery, or during the length of the warranty, whichever comes first.

It’s important to note that the manufacturer may force you to participate in a dispute resolution service, but under Michigan law, you are not bound by the proposed settlement. This is where an experienced Lemon Law attorney can prove invaluable so that you can avoid getting hooked into accepting a less-than-fair settlement.

Pursuing a Refund or Replacement Under Ohio’s Lemon Law

Ohio Lemon Laws define a substantial defect as “one or more problems, covered by the warranty, that substantially impair the use, value or safety of that vehicle.

A reasonable number of repair attempts can be defined as any one of the following circumstances:

  • Three or more attempts to repair one problem;

  • Eight or more attempts to fix multiple problems;

  • Confinement of the vehicle to a repair shop for 30 or more days; or

  • One unsuccessful attempt to fix a problem that could cause death or serious injury. 

All circumstances must occur within the first year of ownership or within 18,000 miles of use, whichever comes first.  Even if you are outside of that time or mileage, there may be alternatives.

If the manufacturer participates in an arbitration process that has been approved by the State Attorney General, then you must go through arbitration before you can file a lawsuit. Once again, you can also opt for replacement or refund. This can be very case-specific and you should discuss this with us before submitting anything to arbitration.

How Much Will the Refund Be?

Computation of the amount of a repurchase can be complicated and is very fact-specific depending on the circumstances. As such, please contact our office so that we can help you address your specific situation.

How Ronald S. Weiss, Attorney, Can Help

If you’re stuck with a lemon, remember to be proactive and keep records of everything, including all maintenance carried out, and any other warranty or repair work undertaken, along with how long the vehicle was at the dealership. Be sure to read your repair orders carefully, checking the dates, the description of the problem, and any other relevant information.

Dealers and manufacturers aren’t normally going to roll over easily once you file under your state’s lemon law for a refund or replacement. They’re going to ask for further repair attempts or try to force you into accepting arbitration. During arbitration, they can try to impose their terms (often to your detriment); remember, they wouldn't try to impose arbitration if it didn't work for them.

At the end of the day, it’s important for you to remember that you don’t have to face this process alone. If you have been sold or leased a lemon and live anywhere across Michigan or Ohio, Ronald S. Weiss, Attorney, will work with you to help you exercise your full rights so you don’t get shortchanged by a dealer or manufacturer, or both. Importantly, the manufacturer has to pay my fees for successful claims.  Call or reach out to our office today to schedule a free case consultation.