There isn’t much that compares to the feeling of sitting behind the wheel, music and air on and the road stretching out ahead of you. Even if the trip only involves a stop at the grocery store for a gallon of milk and a bag of shredded cheese, the drive to and from can be the highlight.
However, when your vehicle starts to act up, that simple trip can go from a joy to a nightmare in no time. If you need the milk and can’t rely on your vehicle to get there, the problem becomes a real impediment.
The Texas lemon law is a measure overseen by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, both in recognition that a defective vehicle can be a real concern for state residents and that the legal system can take a long time to help resolve such situations.
The Texas DMV has a special department to oversee the Lemon Law cases. The staff there are knowledgeable and prepared to handle the case in a timely manner.
If you bought your vehicle pre-owned, you may be unsure if this law will be to your benefit. The answer to this is dependent on your situation, rather than the pre-owned status of the vehicle.
If you purchased your vehicle and it was still covered by original warranties through the dealer or manufacturer, then your vehicle is indeed qualified under the Texas Lemon Law. The law specifically states that the vehicle must be covered by original warranties from the manufacturer or dealer and must be within the first 18 months after purchase or still be within the first 18,000 miles of driving.
For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked lemon law criteria questions, click here.
If the vehicle you own fits this (the criteria is determined by whichever comes first, the 18 month mark or the 18,000th mile), then you can look further into the criteria for the Texas lemon law.
Lemon Law Criteria
The Texas lemon law defines a vehicle defect as one that poses a significant risk to life and limb of the driver and passengers. It also clearly states that the defect must significantly decrease the vehicle. It cannot be something cosmetic or that does not decrease the value of the vehicle.
Vehicle in this case is a car, truck, SUV, motorcycle, electric vehicle, towable recreational vehicle (TRV) or RV. This law does not cover trailers or farming equipment.
If the two above criteria are covered, the next step is to consider how many attempts have been made to fix the defect. If the vehicle has been taken to a mechanic four or more times (with clear documentation both of each visit and that each visit was for the same reason), then the criteria is met.
Next, the vehicle performance must be impeded by the defect. In order to meet this criteria, the vehicle must sit idle for 30 days (or more) during the initial 18 months or first 18,000 miles driven. Any days where a loaner vehicle was provided do not count. However, the day total does not have to be consecutive. It can count as days spread out over that timeframe.
If the vehicle in your garage or driveway fits all of these criteria, the next step is to consider if you have the proper documentation and have made the proper notifications during your fight to get your defective vehicle road-ready and reliable again.
Think you have a lemon, click here to fill out a 30 second form.
Have you reached out to the manufacturer and let them know this issue exists? If you are having a problem with your vehicle and more than one attempt to repair it has been unsuccessful, it is important to notify the dealer/manufacturer of this ongoing issue. The best way to do this is with some type of paper trail, so certified mail is recommended.
The Texas Law Complaint Process
In 2018, the Texas DMV oversaw 567 complaints, with 531 closed by year’s end. The total is a 26% increase over 2016.
Of those complaints, 186 were settled prior to a final decision from the Texas DMV, and 15 vehicles were repurchased or replaced. The total financial value of the complaints in 2018 was $721,019.19.
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Therefore, having a defective vehicle is an expensive problem to find yourself facing. The Texas DMV recognizes the potential financial issues ahead if you have a vehicle where the defect has not been resolved after more than one visit to the service department.
The next step is to file the complaint with the Texas DMV. This can be done online. Once the fee is paid, the case is taken on by a staff member. The evidence is considered, and a mediation is scheduled. In the event the two parties can’t resolve the situation, the case will then be escalated to a hearing, where an examiner hears from both parties.
The examiner has 60 days to provide a written decision, which can be appealed by either party. In the event the examiner finds in favor of the auto owner, there are three possible outcomes.
If the examiner decides the manufacturer should fund repair of the vehicle in question, then that is how the situation proceeds. The payments made for previous repair attempts may be considered in this case, with restitution awarded to you, the auto owner.
Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law complaint process.
Next, the examiner may decide the manufacturer must replace the vehicle in question with one of comparable value. This value is calculated based on the number of miles driven since it was purchased and, again, any money spent on unsuccessful repair attempts. It does not take into consideration aftermarket additions to the vehicle.
The examiner may also decide the manufacturer must repurchase the vehicle. Payments made to this point and the miles driven are factors considered for this calculation. Aftermarket additions to the vehicle are not considered.
Finally, the examiner may find in favor of the manufacturer. In this event, the auto owner is free to appeal the decision. This is important to consider during the process, if the manufacturer offers a compromise. This situation is not ideal and can extend the timeframe for the process. This does not help you get a reliable vehicle on the road and get your life back to normal.
As noted above, many cases do not make it to the point where the examiner for the DMV provides a decision in the case. These cases are settled between the two parties at mediation or some point prior to the examiner’s written decision.
As an auto owner, it is comforting to know there is an avenue to pursue for assistance if your vehicle is defective. It is important to know if your vehicle fits the criteria and also to gather all evidence available to show the defect is a significant impediment to your daily life.
Working with a lemon law attorney helps to streamline this process and cut down on time spent and stress levels all at once.
The experience of the lemon law lawyer and their staff can make a difference in the way your case progresses, the timeframe in which it is handled and the resolution. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions and concerns, as they are prepared to help with the process from step one to the final decision.