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Hawaii Lemon Law Rights Consumer Guide

Hawaii Lemon Law Rights Handbook

This guide was compiled by the Hawaii Office of the Attorney General and contains a great explanation of the Hawaii lemon law statute and the Hawaii lemon law definition and presumptions. If after you read this guide you have more questions about your rights under the Hawaii automobile lemon law, or you want free help seeking remedies under the Hawaii lemon law on new cars, connect with a Hawaii lemon law attorney for a free lemon law case review! Simply put, whenever you need help with the Hawaii car lemon law, CarLemon is your one stop lemon law infosource.

Your Hawaii Lemon Law Rights

State of Hawaii, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, State Certified Arbitration Program (SCAP)

The Hawaii “Lemon Law” helps consumers who buy or lease new motor vehicles and have repeated problems in getting their vehicles repaired under the manufacturer’s warranty. The State Certified Arbitration Program (SCAP) provides the consumer with an arbitration process to resolve a Lemon Law dispute with a manufacturer. To see if you qualify for Lemon Law relief and to find out about the procedures involved in requesting and preparing for arbitration, carefully review the Hawaii Lemon Law Rights Consumer Handbook below. The actual law can be found in Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 481I.


The Hawaii “Lemon Law” helps consumers who buy or lease new motor vehicles and have repeated problems in getting their vehicles repaired under the manufacturer’s warranty. The Lemon Law can help a consumer get a refund of the vehicle purchase price or a replacement vehicle from the manufacturer. The State Certified Arbitration Program (SCAP) provides the consumer with a self-help arbitration process to resolve a warranty dispute with a manufacturer. This Program gives the consumer a less complicated and less expensive option than going to court.

The information in this handbook is a summary of the Lemon Law and the procedures involved in requesting and preparing for an arbitration. The law itself is found in Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 481I (Read the Statute). The administrative rules which govern the SCAP process are found in Hawaii Administrative Rules Title 16 Chapter 181.

For Further Information Call:

587-3222 and choose option #2

274-3141 then dial 73222, then the # sign.

984-2400 then dial 73222, then the # sign.

Big Island
974-4000 then dial 73222, then the # sign.

1-800-468-4644 then dial 73222, then the # sign.


Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Regulated Industries Complaints Office
Consumer Resource Center
235 S. Beretania Street, Ninth Floor
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Web Site

Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs

Is My Vehicle Covered Under the Lemon Law?

Your vehicle may be covered if it is:

  • a new car, including a demonstrator model. This also includes a car transferred to a second purchaser while the manufacturer’s written warranty is still in effect.
  • purchased or leased in Hawaii
  • used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes orindividually registered but used for business purposes and for personal, family, or household purposes orowned or leased by a business which has purchased or leased no more than one car per year, used for household, individual, or personal use in addition to business use

Your vehicle is NOT covered if it is:

  • a moped, motorcycle, or motor scooter
  • a vehicle over 10,000 pounds, gross vehicle weight rating ( GVWR)*

* GVWR is the maximum loaded weight of the vehicle as specified by the manufacturer. The GVWR can be found on the sticker that is placed on the driver side door jamb. The GVWR is not the weight of the vehicle as stated on your registration.

Is My Car a Lemon?

Your car may be declared a lemon after going through arbitration if it meets all of the following conditions:

  • it has a nonconformity (a defect, malfunction, or condition)
  • the nonconformity is covered by the manufacturer’s express warranty
  • the nonconformity SUBSTANTIALLY impairs the use, market value, or safety of the car
  • the nonconformity is not the result of an accident, abuse, neglect, or alteration of the car by persons other than the manufacturer or its authorized dealer
  • you tried to get the nonconformity repaired by the manufacturer’s authorized dealer during the Lemon Law Rights Period
  • you sent written notification (preferably by certified mail, return receipt requested) to the manufacturer (not the dealer) of the nonconformity during the Lemon Law Rights Period*
  • you gave the manufacturer or its authorized dealer a reasonable opportunity to repair the nonconformity during the Lemon Law Rights Period
  • you filed a request for arbitration with the State Certified Arbitration Program within one year after the Lemon Law Rights Period expired

* If you did not receive a Lemon Law Statement of Rights from the dealership when you purchased the vehicle, you are not required to write to the manufacturer although it is a good idea to do so anyway. If you did not receive a Lemon Law Statement of Rights, include that information when you submit your paperwork for arbitration.

When Does the Lemon Law Rights Period Expire?

Assuming the express warranty is still in effect, the Lemon Law Rights Period expires two years after the date of the original delivery of the car to you or the first 24,000 miles of operation, whichever occurs first.

Express warranty” means any written warranty issued by the manufacturer, or any affirmation of fact or promise made by the manufacturer (not the dealer) which relates to the material or workmanship and affirms or promises that the vehicle shall conform to the affirmation or promise. An extended service contract is not the manufacturer’s warranty under most circumstances and generally will not extend your rights through the Lemon Law, since the Lemon Law deals only with your rights against the manufacturer.

Is My Car’s Nonconformity a Substantial Impairment?

The nonconformity you are alleging must substantially impair your car’s use, safety, or value. “Substantially impairs” means to render the car unfit, unreliable, or unsafe for warranted or normal use or to significantly diminish the value of the car. You may be able to prove the car’s use is impaired if one of its major systems is defective or if the defect prevents it from being used in a normal fashion. A car’s value may be decreased by conditions that would lead a buyer to pay much less than the market price for a comparable car that does not have the defect.

How Many Repair Attempts do I Have to Allow?

One or more of the following presumptions should apply to your car:

Three Times Presumption
  • you took your car in for repair for the same nonconformity at least three times within the Lemon Law Rights Period but
  • the nonconformity continues to exist
One Time “Serious Nonconformity” Presumption
  • you took your car in for repair at least once for a serious nonconformity within the Lemon Law Rights Period but
  • the nonconformity continues to exist and is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the car is driven
30 Days Presumption
  • you took your car in for repair for one or more nonconformities within the Lemon Law Rights Period and the total number of business days which the car was in for repair adds up to 30 or more days

Note: The more presumptions that apply to your car the better — usually it means you have a stronger case.

What Should I do if I Think I Qualify for Arbitration?
  1. Letter to manufacturer. Send a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested to the manufacturer within the Lemon Law Rights Period. Send it to the address given for the manufacturer in the Lemon Law Statement of Rights form which should have been given to you when you purchased your car. You may use the sample letter provided to you in this handbook.
  2. Allow time. Although not required, it is reasonable to allow the manufacturer 10-14 days from the date it receives your notification, to cure the problem.
  3. Make payments. Continue to make your monthly payments on your financed or leased car. Failure to do so may result in a repossession which may adversely affect your Lemon Law rights.
  4. Allow inspection. The manufacturer has a right to inspect your car after you have submitted a demand for arbitration and a case has been initiated. The manufacturer should arrange a mutually convenient time, date, and location with you. During the inspection, the car may be test driven and tests with diagnostic equipment may be done. However, there should not be another repair attempt. You have the right to request to review any test results before the arbitration.
  5. Keep records. Keep a complete record of all your dealings with the manufacturer and dealer, including copies of repair orders, letters, and records of phone calls or conversations. If it would help to prove the existence of the nonconformity, take photographs (for example, of a water leak problem) or make a tape recording (for example, of an intermittent noise).
  6. Decide if you want an attorney. Most consumers present their own cases. Manufacturers usually send a local representative or participate in the arbitration by telephone. However, if a manufacturer has an attorney or you feel uncomfortable without one, you may want to be represented by an attorney. If you so choose, you must notify the SCAP Administrator well in advance of the arbitration date. The SCAP Administrator is NOT your representative and will NOT be present with you at your arbitration.
  7. Decide if you need an expert witness. You may need an expert witness such as a mechanic to testify that the problem is one that is a serious safety defect or to testify that the problem constitutes a substantial impairment of the use, safety, or value of the car.
  8. Fill out the form and enclose your documents and check. Use the Demand for Arbitration form provided in this booklet. Enclose 3 copies of all the documents requested. You must also send a $50 filing fee with your request. If your case goes through arbitration and the final decision is in your favor, your $50 will be refunded to you. Your request for arbitration will not be processed until it is filled out completely and accurately and all requested documents are provided.
  9. Wait for notification of initiation of case. The SCAP Administrator will notify you by letter when your case is initiated. After your case is initiated, the arbitration will be scheduled and the arbitrator’s decision will be due within 45 days.
Can I Settle My Case Without Going to Arbitration?

Certainly, if the manufacturer offers you a settlement of your case, you are free to negotiate with the manufacturer regarding the terms of the settlement, and you are free to accept a settlement. In that situation, you will no longer need to go through the arbitration and risk losing your case. However, it is wise to get the terms in writing before withdrawing from the arbitration process. You must communicate directly with the manufacturer’s representative to obtain concrete figures and information on all the terms of the settlement. If the terms are unclear to you, you should persist in clearing them up to your satisfaction. Make sure you provide any requested paperwork to the manufacturer on a timely basis to expedite the settlement process. As soon as you have confirmed the agreed-upon terms, you should contact the SCAP Administrator. Your $50.00 will not be refunded as it defrays the administrative costs of the program.

Please note that if you have accepted a settlement offer and the manufacturer does not comply with the settlement, you may need to consult with an attorney to find out how to enforce the settlement agreement in court.

How Should I Prepare for the Arbitration?
  • Collect and organize your evidence. For example, arrange repair orders by date. If you are asking for collateral charges* (such as tinting costs) or incidental charges** (such as rental car costs), obtain proof of these expenses. Obtain a statement from your lender or your leasing company showing all your payments made to date and the payoff amount to release the title of the car. For a leased car, also ask the leasing company for a statement showing the leasing company’s actual purchase cost of the car. Your evidence may include repair orders, photographs, notarized statements or affidavits, diagrams, videotapes, or cassette recordings. You must inform the SCAP Administrator well in advance of the arbitration if you intend to present videotapes or other recordings so the proper equipment may be made available.
  • Arrange for witnesses. Although notarized affidavits may be allowed by the arbitrator, more believable evidence is provided by live witnesses. You may also subpoena witnesses. Make sure your witnesses know when and where to be present, and tell them the arbitration may take all morning or afternoon.
  • Prepare an outline. Prepare an outline to help you present and remember relevant information.
  • Prepare your response to the manufacturer’s arguments. You will be sent a copy of the Manufacturer’s Statement which says why it should not be required to replace or repurchase your car. Be prepared to respond to those arguments.
  • Prepare questions for the manufacturer. Prepare questions for the manufacturer which may help to support your arguments or which may cast doubt on the manufacturer’s arguments.
  • Get the car ready for inspection or test-drive by the arbitrator. The arbitrator may request to inspect or test-drive your car on the day of the arbitration. Make sure to bring evidence of current licensure and insurance.
  • Arrange for an interpreter if needed. You may bring to the arbitration someone who can translate for you. Inform the SCAP Administrator in advance if you are going to do this.
  • Decide if you want a binding or a non-binding arbitration. If you elect binding arbitration, neither party can ask for an appeal (called trial de novo) of the arbitrator’s decision in court. Under non-binding arbitration, either party may ask for a trial de novo, but it must be done within 30 days after receipt of the decision. Careful consideration should be given to an appeal because the court will order that all reasonable costs of the trial as well as attorney’s fees be paid by the party who demanded the trial de novo if that party does not improve its position by as least 25%. If neither party elects a trial de novo within 30 days, the arbitrator’s decision becomes binding. Bring your completed “Election of Consumer” form (provided in this handbook) to the arbitration.
  • Watch the SCAP video. Make arrangements with the SCAP Administrator to view the SCAP video well in advance of your arbitration. The video will show you a mock arbitration and give you a better idea of what to expect at the arbitration and how best to prepare your case for presentation to the arbitrator.

* Collateral Charges are those additional charges incurred as a result of the acquisition of the car. If manufacturer-installed or agent-installed items, taxes, government fees, etc. are included in your purchase contract, they will be included as part of your refund if you win. You only have to provide additional proof of other charges that you paid separately.

** Incidental Charges means those reasonable costs incurred by a consumer such as towing charges and rental car costs, which are directly caused by the defects which are the subject of the claim. They do not include loss of use, loss of income, or personal injury claims.

The Lemon Law Arbitration
  • Where do I go? Hearings on Oahu are held at 235 S. Beretania Street, 9th Floor. Neighbor island hearings are held at various locations on those islands.
  • How long will it take? Hearings usually last from two to four hours depending on the complexities of the case and whether attorneys or witnesses are involved.
  • What happens at the arbitration? The arbitrator will make introductory remarks. Then you will present your side of the story. The arbitrator and the manufacturer’s representative may ask you questions. Next, the manufacturer’s case is presented. Then, you and the arbitrator may ask questions. After all the evidence is received, in most cases, an inspection and/or test drive is done. At the conclusion of the hearing, each party may summarize and argue for a specific result.
  • How do I present my case? The following is a guideline:
    1. State the specific nature of the problem.
    2. State any relevant conversations with the dealer or the manufacturer.
    3. Describe and document each repair attempt.
    4. Describe and document any new developments.
    5. Offer proof of each point, especially those in dispute.
    6. State what result you want. Briefly summarize the facts discussed.
  • What do I have to prove? Depending on what is being disputed, you may need to prove to the arbitrator that:
    • your car had a defect covered by warranty, and you reported it in writing to the manufacturer during the Lemon Law Rights Period;
    • you gave the manufacturer or its authorized dealer a reasonable opportunity to repair during the Lemon Law Rights Period but the defect still continued;
    • the defect substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of the car.
What Happens After the Arbitration?
  • Receive decision by certified mail. The arbitrator’s decision must be issued within 45 days after initiation of your case by the Administrator (unless an extension of time was agreed upon by both parties.) It will be mailed to you by certified mail. If you chose non-binding arbitration and lost, you must decide whether you will appeal. You may need to consult an attorney.
  • If you get a refund, it may include any collateral or incidental charges which you presented to the arbitrator. However, a Reasonable Mileage Offset* will be deducted using the formula provided by law. See the sample
  • Refund Calculation.
  • If you get a replacement car, this is supposed to be a “comparable” car — a car identical or reasonably equivalent to the car to be replaced, as it existed at the time of original acquisition. You must pay the reasonable mileage offset as provided by law. At times, a comparable replacement car cannot be agreed upon. If this is so, your arbitrator may award you a refund instead of a replacement car.
  • Deadline for compliance. Generally, the deadline for compliance is within thirty (30) days from receipt of the decision. Usually, the manufacturer will contact you to arrange for the return of your car in exchange for the refund or replacement car (depending on what is awarded). If the manufacturer does not comply on a timely basis, you may need to consult with an attorney to find out how to enforce compliance with the decision in court.

* Reasonable Mileage Offset for use means the number of miles attributable to the consumer up to the date of the third repair attempt or the date of the first repair attempt for a serious safety defect, or the date of the 30th cumulative business day when the car is out of service by reason of repair, whichever occurs first. The reasonable offset for use is one percent of the purchase price for every thousand miles of use.

Sample Calculation for Purchased or Leased Vehicle

Refund Calculation

1.Down Payment$ 3,000.00
2.Net Trade-in
3.Monthly payments made as of the date of the hearing$ 5,872.00
4.Collateral charges
5.Incidental charges
6.Subtotal (sum of lines 1 – 5)$ 8,872.00
7.Mileage deduction (“reasonable offset”)$ 2,807.90
8.Damage offset (above normal wear and tear) if any
9.Total Consumer Refund: (line 6 less lines 7 & 8)$ 6,064.10

Mileage Deduction Calculation

Purchase price (or lease price)*$27,995.00
1% of purchase price (or lease price)$ 279.95
Total mileage at 3rd repair** 10,041 – 14 = 10,027 (Mileage at repair less mileage at purchase)
Mileage at 3rd repair ¸ 1,000 = 10.03
$279.95 x 10.03 =$ 2,807.90

*The “purchase price” of a leased car is the lessor’s actual purchase cost of the vehicle. If you are unable to obtain this information, the arbitrator may use the gross capitalized cost as shown on your lease contract.

**Mileage on 3rd repair order normally used. However, if defect was one likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, mileage at the 1st repair attempt should be used. Or, if the 30-day presumption applies, use the mileage on the repair order at the 30th day.

Client Reviews
I want to personally thank you for all your assistance and guidance with this. I value everything you did and hope I will not have to use your service, but will highly recommend your office. Diana
I received the payment for my settlement. I really appreciate your firm for the representation. You all did a wonderful job and in the future if I need assistance you will be the first I would call. Thank you and i will make sure that I give you plenty referrals. Thank you again!!! Montreesia R.
Thank you all for your time and dedication to my case. The fact that it was done from another state is astounding. You all did such an awesome job with communication and efficiency. Diamond F.
Thank you for the work you have done. I didn't know what to do, but you did. I appreciate the time you took with me. Thank you again for winning the case. Athenia P.
Mr. Weisberg and his firm took our case and they were the best! Professional, friendly, responded quickly. The Lemon Law applied in our situation and was settled with quick results. we would highly recommend this firm. Pat