Action Line: Lemon law protects against defective cars

With new car sales expected to increase this year in Hawaii, the state is reminding car owners about its lemon law, which is meant to help protect consumers who buy defective cars.

“If you buy a new car and it turns out to have a defect that substantially impairs the warrant, or doesn’t warrant, the use of the car, you can file a demand for arbitration with our office,” said Daria Loy-Goto, chief complaints officer with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

In order for your vehicle to qualify as a lemon, it must first meet some requirements.

“Firstly, the consumer should allow the manufacturer the opportunity to repair the problem, and after that, if it’s still not working, then the consumer needs to file a notice with the manufacturer, so the manufacturer is on notice that there is a defect or problem with the car,” said Loy-Goto.

The law only works with vehicles under two years old or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. If your vehicle meets those requirements, the state can help.

“The lemon law office will set up an actual arbitration,” said Loy-Goto. “The consumer can go in and make his or her argument for why the car is defective and why it should be replaced.”

But not everything is covered. “Not all defects are going to qualify for lemon law,” said Loy-Goto. “If you’ve got a persistent rattle or there’s a persistent squeak, that may not substantially impair the use of that car.”

The state does want to remind consumers that it doesn’t act on their behalf, but instead acts as an objective third party.

“We actually had a recent case where, short of going to the arbitration process, we were able to assist the consumer with getting a buy back of the vehicle,” said Loy-Goto.

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