Consumer Rights : Automobiles

What laws are in place to help protect me from bad car deals?

There are a number of laws that protect you from unfair or deceptive practices by car dealers and mechanics.

If you are having a problem or a dispute with a car dealer or mechanic, or your car has been repossessed, you may want to consult an attorney regarding your rights.

What do I need to know about buying a car?

Buying any car is a major investment, and before you buy any car, new or used, you should do some homework, checking advertisements and reading magazines like Consumer Reports to find out and compare cost and reliability of different models.

You should also take a look at your budget and decide before looking at cars what you can afford. New cars come with warranties from the manufacturer and are covered by Ohio’s Lemon Law. Used cars may or may not have warranties and are not covered by Ohio’s Lemon Law.

What about leasing a car?

You may decide that you should lease rather than buy a car. When you lease a car, you do not own it. You pay a lease payment for the right to use the car, but you must return it at the end of the lease unless you choose to buy the car at the end of the lease period.

For some owners, leasing makes sense, but you need to make sure you understand how the lease works and what your responsibilities are under the lease. Doing a comparison of leasing a car versus buying a car is always a good idea. Learn more about how to negotiate an auto lease now.

Don’t I have three days to change my mind after I buy a car?


This is a common misunderstanding about car buying.

This three-day right to return goods or change your mind about a contract does not apply to car purchases. This is another reason to be careful and check out any car thoroughly and make sure you understand the terms of your purchase contract before you sign any papers and pay any money.

What are my rights if I buy a car “AS IS”?

The Federal Trade Commission requires a paper called the Buyers Guide to be posted in every used car being sold by a used car dealer.

Private individuals who are selling a car do not have to use this Guide. The Guide will tell you whether the car is being sold “AS IS” or whether there is some warranty. If the car you are buying has this Guide with the “AS IS” disclaimer, this means that the dealer is not giving you any guarantees or promises about the condition of the car.

The dealer has no obligation to make any repairs on a car you buy “AS IS.” BEFORE you agree to buy a car AS IS, you should test drive the car under a variety of conditions and have it inspected by a mechanic to make sure you are buying a safe, mechanically sound automobile.

If the dealer makes promises about fixing the car if you have problems, even if there is a Buyers Guide with an “AS IS” disclaimer, ask him to put that promise in writing. This will avoid disagreements later, if you have problems with the car. For more information about buying a used car, see the Consumer Guide from the Federal Trade Commission.

What if I think my car is a lemon?

A lemon is a new car, truck or motorcycle that has a problem or problems covered by the warranty, that affects the use, safety or value of the vehicle.

If you have problems within the first 18,000 miles, you must first take the vehicle back to the dealer and ask them to fix it. If the dealer does not fix the vehicle after a reasonable opportunity to do so, then you may have a lemon. This means you might be eligible for a refund or a replacement. See the Ohio's Lemon Law brochure for more information.

What are my options for financing a car?

If you are not able to pay the entire cash price for a car in one payment, you can apply for a car loan from a bank or other lender or you can apply for financing through the car dealer and have the dealer find financing for you.

The interest rates for used car loans are generally higher than interest rates for new car loans.

Some used car dealers will finance your purchase themselves; these are called “Buy Here/Pay Here” car dealers. These dealers tend to charge higher prices and have higher interest rates than other dealers. However, understanding vehicle financing can help you avoid making costly mistakes.

Will I get notice before my car gets repossessed?

Ohio law does not require the creditor (the bank or finance agency or the car lot which is financing your car purchase) to give you a notice before attempting to repossess your car if you have fallen behind in your payments.

You may get notices or phone calls telling you that your payments are late, but you will likely not get any warning before a tow truck shows up to repossess your car.

If you are having problems making your car payments, you should contact the creditor to discuss the problems and try to make other arrangements.

If you are having problems paying all of your bills, you may want to contact a credit counselor for assistance.

Ohio law allows creditors to repossess your car if it can be done without breaching the peace. This means that whoever comes to try to repossess the car cannot hurt or threaten you with violence, or damage your property in any way.

What happens after my car gets repossessed?

Once your car has been repossessed, you should get one of two possible notices. If the dealer financed your purchase and then assigned your loan to a finance agency or bank, or if you bought the car at a Buy Here/Pay Here car lot, the creditor must mail a notice of default to you within five days of the repossession.

This notice must explain the default and tell you how much money you must pay in order to regain possession of the car. It may also include a notice of sale.

This notice of sale could be mailed separately, but either way, it must tell you the date, time and location of the sale, the minimum sale price for the car, and a statement that you will be liable for any deficiency.

If your car purchase was independently financed, the creditor only has to mail you a notice of the proposed sale.

What is a deficiency?

A deficiency is the difference between the amount you still owe on your car loan, plus the costs of repossession, and the amount your car sell for at auction or resale.

When you signed for a car loan, regardless of who loaned you the money, you promised to pay the principle amount borrowed, plus interest and other costs.

If you do not make all the payments as you promised and your car is repossessed, you are still obligated to pay the remaining amount due under the loan.

Once your car is sold after repossession, the creditor can sue you for the deficiency.

What are my rights if I have to take my car to a shop for repairs?

Ohio has laws that protect your rights when you take your car to a repair shop or mechanic.

For example, you have the right to request an estimate before repairs begin, and the final bill cannot be more than 10% higher than this estimate unless you have approved the additional costs.

You have the right to get a copy of every document you sign or initial. You have the right to have replace parts returned to you, and you have the right to an itemized list of repairs and costs.  For more information about your rights and Ohio consumer protection laws, including auto repair shop laws, click here.

If your car is still under warranty, you may have to go back to the dealer you bought your car from if the repair may be covered by your warranty.

Also, if you purchased an extended warranty or a services contract when you bought the car, your choice of shops or the procedure you have to follow to make a claim under your warranty will be contained in the warranty or contract.

Read the contract and check with the dealer or service company before you arrange for repairs.

The Ohio Attorney General is responsible for enforcing the laws governing car repair shops and mechanics. If you have a problem or a complaint about a repair shop or mechanic, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit.

See also the Forms & Education tab in this section for more information.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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