SCHOFIELD BARRACKS -- Thinking about buying a new car in Hawaii?

If so, be aware that different consumer protection laws apply for new versus used cars.

Only new cars are covered by Hawaii's lemon law.

Used cars (less than 5 years old, costing more than $1,500, and those that have between 12,000 and 75,000 miles) are covered by a different set of consumer laws that may provide protections for you.

For new cars purchased in Hawaii, this article explains which laws apply and what you can do to protect yourself should anything go wrong with the vehicle.

-- What cars qualify?

Only new cars and motorcycles bought in Hawaii are covered under Hawaii's lemon law. However, you could also fall under this law's protection if you buy a car from someone while it's still under the original manufacturer's written warranty. If you buy a new car, or a car still covered by the original manufacturer's warranty, it still has to meet certain criteria to be a lemon.

-- What is a "lemon"?

After you've determined you could be covered under Hawaii lemon laws, there are additional criteria that must be met in order for you to seek relief.

Your car must have a nonconformity. It could be a defect, malfunction or problematic condition. After determining a problem, it must be covered by the manufacturer's express warranty, and the problem must substantially impair the use, market value or safety of the car. Also, the problem cannot be due to an accident, abuse, negligence or alterations to the car done by someone other than the manufacturer or an authorized dealer.

-- Now what?

You must allow the authorized dealer a "reasonable opportunity" to repair the problem, and this attempt must be made during the first two years of owning the car or the first 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. This is called the lemon law rights period.

-- What is a reasonable opportunity to repair?

A reasonable opportunity to repair generally falls into three situations:

•The problem continues after the authorized dealer made at least three attempts to fix it within the lemon law rights period;

•A serious problem, such as one that is likely to cause death or serious injuries if the car is driven, is not fixed after the first attempt by the authorized dealer; or

•The authorized dealer has had your car for 30 or more business days for one or more problems and has not yet been fixed.

-- What is my next step?

If you qualify for protections under the Hawaiian lemon law, send a letter to the manufacturer (not the dealership) by certified mail, return receipt requested, within the lemon law rights period and file a demand for arbitration form with the state-certified arbitration program.

-- Need help getting started?

To schedule an appointment with an attorney to help you fill out forms, gather evidence and receive further guidance on how the lemon law process works, visit the Schofield Barracks Legal Assistance Office at 278 Aleshire Avenue (Bldg. 2037) or call (808) 655-8607.