The Ohio Motor Vehicle Exemption in Bankruptcy

Can you keep your car if you file for bankruptcy in Ohio? Find out here.

The Ohio motor vehicle exemption helps determine whether you can keep your car, truck, van, or other vehicle if you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Here you’ll find information about the Ohio car exemption: how much it is, what types of vehicles it covers, how it works for married couples, how to find the applicable statute, and more.

(For more information about exemptions, including how they work and which ones you can use, see our  Bankruptcy Exemptions area. For information specific to the motor vehicle exemption, see our Motor Vehicle Exemption in Bankruptcy area.)

Ohio's Motor Vehicle Exemption and Your Car

Ohio’s motor vehicle exemption plays a large role in determining whether or not the bankruptcy trustee can take your vehicle to repay your unsecured creditors.   If the equity in your car is less than Ohio’s car exemption, then the trustee cannot sell it. If the equity in your car is significantly more than the applicable exemption amount, the trustee is likely to sell your car to repay your unsecured creditors. For details, see  The Motor Vehicle Exemption: Can You Keep Your Car in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?  

Keep in mind that even if your car is safe from the bankruptcy trustee, the lender may be able to repossess your car during or after bankruptcy. To learn more, see  Your Car in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy  and  If You Are Behind on Your Car Payments, Can Chapter 7 Help?

The Amount of Ohio’s Motor Vehicle Exemption

In Ohio, you can exempt up to $3,675 in equity in your car or other vehicle. You must either own your vehicle, meaning your name is on the vehicle title, regardless of whether you’re still making payments, or lease your vehicle, in order to use the Ohio exemption.

The Federal Motor Vehicle Exemption

Some states allow bankruptcy filers to use the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions instead of state exemptions, but Ohio is not one of these states.

Using Ohio’s Wildcard Exemption to Protect Your Car

If the equity in your car is more than $3,675, you may be able to cover the extra equity by using a wildcard exemption.   You can combine the motor vehicle exemption with the wildcard exemption to protect an additional $1,225 of equity in your motor vehicle. Learn more about joint bankruptcy in our section on Bankruptcy Options for Married Couples.

Can Married Couples Double Ohio’s Motor Vehicle Exemption?

Some states allow married couples filing a joint bankruptcy petition to double the listed exemption amounts.   In Ohio, you and your spouse may double the exemption if you file a joint bankruptcy and are both listed as owners on the vehicle title. This means you could exempt up to $7,350.

What Vehicles and Insurance Are Covered by the Motor Vehicle Exemption?

The Ohio exemption covers motor vehicles only, including cars, vans, and RVs. You may use the exemption to protect one motor vehicle only, regardless of the amount of equity, although you may use the wildcard to protect equity in one vehicle and the motor vehicle exemption to protect another. The Ohio exemption does not protect car insurance proceeds.

Other Information About Ohio’s Vehicle Exemption

Ohio also provides an exemption for tools of the trade, meaning property you use in your profession or trade. If you use your motor vehicle for work, you can use this exemption to protect up to $2,325 of equity in that vehicle. This exemption is not available if you merely use your vehicle to commute to work, but if you use the vehicle to actually perform your job, such as a tow truck, you may claim this exemption in addition to the motor vehicle exemption.

Additionally, Ohio offers unlimited protection for professionally prescribed or medically necessary health aids. If your vehicle has assistive devices, such as lifts or operational aids to assist with an injury, illness, or disability, this exemption may help to protect your vehicle. Different bankruptcy courts in the state may treat this exemption differently. A qualified attorney can help you determine whether this exemption applies to your vehicle.

Checking Ohio’s Exemption Laws

You can find Ohio’s motor vehicle exemption at O.R.C. 2329.66(A)(2).

You can find the Ohio statutes on Ohio’s Lawriter website at To learn how to find state statutes, see Nolo’s  Laws and Legal Research  area.

When the Ohio Exemption Amounts Are Updated

The exemption laws in Ohio change periodically. The amounts are updated for inflation every three years on April 1, in accordance with the consumer price index. You can usually find a link to the current exemption amounts on the Ohio Judicial Conference website at

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