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How Long Is My Car Protected Under Lemon Law? 

Ronald S. Weiss, Attorney June 28, 2024

Imagine you're driving a brand-new car only to discover it's defective. While this is undoubtedly a frustrating experience, you may be eligible for a refund or a replacement vehicle under your state's lemon law.  

Lemon laws are designed to protect consumers who purchase or lease a new vehicle that turns out to have significant defects. In Michigan and Ohio, this law covers new passenger vehicles, SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans purchased or leased in the state. However, it generally does not apply to used vehicles. 

If you've purchased a new car that has significant defects, you generally have a limited length of time during which you can seek compensation.

At Ronald S. Weiss, Attorney & Counselor, we understand the challenges of dealing with a lemon and we're here to guide you through seeking resolutions under Michigan and Ohio lemon laws.  

What Qualifies as a Lemon? 

To qualify as a lemon, a vehicle typically must meet specific criteria outlined by state lemon laws. Generally, the vehicle must have substantial defects that impair its use, value, or safety. These defects must occur within a certain period or mileage limit after the vehicle's purchase or lease.  

To qualify as a lemon, generally, the car must:  

  • Have a significant defect that is covered by the warranty and that occurred within a specific period or after a number of miles traveled.  

  • Have a substantial defect that can't be fixed after a reasonable number of repair attempts for the same issue.  

  • Have 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 to fix various problems or one attempt to repair a defect that was likely to cause death or serious injury. If your vehicle meets these qualifying conditions, you may be entitled to a refund, replacement, or other compensation as provided under Michigan or Ohio lemon laws. 

Protection Under Michigan's Lemon Law 

Under Michigan's lemon law, your new vehicle is protected for a specific period. To seek compensation, you must report the issue to the manufacturer or authorized dealer within the warranty period or one year from the delivery date to the original purchaser, whichever comes first.  

If your vehicle exhibits substantial defects within this time frame and cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts, your vehicle may qualify as a lemon. A reasonable number of repair attempts is generally defined as four or more attempts to repair the same defect or the vehicle being out of service for a cumulative total of 30 or more days.  

If the defects persist, you might be entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund of the purchase price minus a reasonable allowance for use.  

Protection Under Ohio's Lemon Law 

Under Ohio lemon law, a new vehicle is protected for the first 12 months or the first 18,000 miles of use, whichever comes first. Like Michigan's lemon law, this statute ensures that any significant issues that impair the vehicle's use, value, or safety are addressed promptly. 

In Ohio, the defect must remain unresolved after a reasonable number of repair attempts. Ohio law generally defines this as three or more attempts to fix the same issue, or the vehicle being out of service for a cumulative total of 30 or more days.  

If the issue you experienced with your new car falls under these criteria, you may be entitled to compensation, such as a refund of the purchase price or a replacement vehicle. 

Types of Compensation for a Lemon 

Generally, there are two primary forms of compensation for a lemon: a refund or a replacement vehicle. Each option has its pros and cons, which should be carefully considered with the help of an experienced lemon law attorney

Refund 

A refund is a straightforward form of compensation where the manufacturer repays you the purchase price of the defective vehicle. This typically includes any down payments, trade-in allowances, and monthly payments you have made.  

Additionally, you may be reimbursed for incidental expenses directly related to the lemon, such as repair costs, towing, and rental car fees. However, the manufacturer will usually deduct a reasonable amount for the usage of the vehicle before the defect was discovered. This is often calculated based on the mileage accrued on the vehicle. 

Replacement Vehicle 

As an alternative to a refund, manufacturers may offer a replacement vehicle. This option provides you with a new car of the same make, model, and specifications as your original purchase. The benefit of a replacement is that you don't have to go through the process of selecting or financing a new vehicle.  

However, the terms of the replacement should be thoroughly reviewed to ensure there are no hidden costs. You will typically need to agree to transfer your existing loan or lease agreement to the new vehicle, and any differences in the vehicle's market value may also need to be considered. An experienced attorney can help you make an informed decision that best suits your circumstances. 

How to Seek Compensation for a Lemon 

If you suspect your vehicle is a lemon, it's important to follow certain steps to make sure you adhere to your state's lemon laws and maximize your chances of a successful claim.  

  1. Document the defects and report the problem: Document the issues you encounter with your vehicle, including the dates and details of each occurrence and receipts from repair attempts. Notify the manufacturer or its authorized dealer in writing and provide detailed information about the issues.  

  1. Attempt repairs: Bring your vehicle to an authorized dealer or repair shop and allow them the necessary number of opportunities to repair your vehicle, as stipulated by your state’s law. 

  1. Check if your vehicle qualifies as a lemon: Assess whether your vehicle qualifies as a lemon under your state’s specific criteria. If the defect persists after a reasonable number of repair attempts, you may be entitled to a refund or a comparable replacement vehicle.  

  1. Seek a refund or replacement: Submit a request for compensation to the manufacturer or authorized dealer. The refund should include the purchase or lease price, options or modifications installed by the manufacturer, towing costs, and reasonable costs for a comparable rental vehicle.  

  1. File a lemon law claim: If the manufacturer does not comply, you can file your complaint with an appropriate court for intervention.  

  1. Seek legal advice: Given the complexity of lemon laws, it's advisable to consult with a lemon law attorney. An experienced attorney can negotiate with the manufacturer, help you file a lemon law claim, and advocate on your behalf to secure the best possible outcome. 

Experienced Legal Counsel You Can Trust 

Lemon laws provide essential protection for car owners dealing with defective vehicles. If you find yourself in possession of a lemon, reach out to an experienced lemon law attorney for seasoned guidance and advice. At Ronald S. Weiss, Attorney & Counselor, we're here to help you every step of the way. 

While we are located in West Bloomfield, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio, we handle cases throughout both states. Reach out to us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can assist you with your lemon law case.