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We handle cases across the United States. Allen Stewart is licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Arizona.

Auto Dealership Obligations: Compliance with Lemon Laws and Odometer Regulations 

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There’s a certain joy that comes with driving. You get behind the wheel and crank the stereo and even if you’re going somewhere boring, you get to enjoy the time you spend getting there. Just like the drive you enjoy, having a reliable vehicle that runs and doesn’t put you at risk is a certain joy in life.

When that vehicle doesn’t live up to expectations – particularly if you recently purchased it – then things get messy. The hassle of having an unsafe vehicle and no reliable way to get to work, school, or the grocery store can be very frustrating.

You may think you are on your own, but there is help available. The Texas lemon law can be a valuable resource for those who have a lemon sitting in the garage or driveway. First, however, let’s consider the ways a dealership may trick you into purchasing a vehicle they know to be a lemon.

Mileage is important when considering the value of a vehicle. For example, potential buyers consider the vehicle’s mileage to determine whether it was well-traveled prior to their purchase, to better estimate what will need to be replaced sooner rather than later and what regular maintenance will be due based on mileage accrued.

When considering factors under the Texas lemon law, it is also key to know that the vehicle will only be considered a lemon if the persistent defect occurs within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles. (Note: If you are reporting the issue within the first six months after that milestone, you are still in good shape. Don’t give up yet.)

For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked auto dealership obligations questions, click here.

Likewise, when considering the amount to repay someone who has a lemon, the mileage is factored into the vehicle value. This makes a big difference when it really comes down to whether the vehicle owner is on the losing end of the deal and whether they have to just tolerate the issue or they get help through measures like the Texas lemon law.

For those on the hunt for a new vehicle, it is wise to be aware of the signs of car odometer rollback fraud.

Those signs include:

  • dash screws missing
  • digits misaligned
  • scratches on or near the instrument cluster
  • clicking noise from the odometer when the vehicle is driven
  • fingerprint marks INSIDE the plastic cluster cover
  • unusual switches on the dash – to help turn the odometer “on” and “off”
  • speedometer console not the right fit for the dash

Remember to ask questions, including to see the car’s accident report and any information on regular maintenance that previous owners had completed. This way, you can see if the mileage doesn’t match up. Make sure to pay attention to this on the title as well. If the mileage does not increase in a reasonable manner, that’s a good indication that odometer tampering has occurred.

If your vehicle is defective, it is wise to get the ball rolling on a case for recourse. Vehicles must be within the four 24 months of ownership, first 24,000 miles driven or within six months since that milestone has passed in order to be considered a lemon.

Likewise, the vehicle must have sat idle during that period for 30 days or more (these do not necessarily have to be consecutive).

Also, the manufacturer or dealer must have been made aware of the ongoing issue with the vehicle, and the visits to the service department with no resolution.

Documentation is key here- make sure to send the notification by certified mail so they can’t say they were never made aware. Do not have this conversation with someone over the phone. Even if you take the best notes possible, they can say they don’t have any record of it, and it becomes a battle of who to believe. You don’t need that in your already stressful situation of dealing with a defective mode of transportation. Instead, communicate in a way that can be tracked.

The process for filing a lemon law complaintbegins by filing with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, who have a specific department within the DMV to deal with lemon law complaints. The complaint can be filed online and the fee paid. Following that, the case is assigned to someone in the department.

The evidence is evaluated, and a mediation is scheduled. If the mediation is unsuccessful, then the process moves on to a hearing with an examiner. That examiner hears both sides and then has 60 days to provide a written decision. Both sides have the option to appeal said decision if they so choose.

Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law complaint process.

You might consider taking on a lemon law complaint on your own. However, this is your first rodeo. There are likely some very capable professionals near you that can help you reach a better solution.

Contact some lemon law attorneys that live and work in your area. Ask about their case record as far as lemon law wins go. They will be able to share some things they have learned along the way, covering multiple cases and seeing how each is addressed. They also come with a capable support staff who can get you on the right track in terms of documentation and proof that your vehicle is a lemon.

The documentation is important, because hearings require you to present your side and have the most accurate accounting of your repair attempts, the discussions with the service department and the manufacturer. Hopefully, you had that conversation and you have proof that it occurred.

Your abilities to get restitution for a lemon vehicle depend on your savvy against the manufacturer. They are protecting their bottom line, and they will do what they can to get out of the situation without spending too much more. They already know they have a defective vehicle out in the market, which will negatively affect them. They don’t want to have to pay you for it or to have it repaired – they want to get away with minimal effort and expense.

Your goals are obviously very different, which is why it’s best to have that lemon law attorney with you to get things moving the right direction for you. That attorney will have your best interests in mind – because they make money if you win.

Working through the Texas lemon law complaint process can be intimidating -especially when you are focused on finding a better way to get yourself from Point A to Point B than your brand new vehicle that SHOULD be your most reliable method of transportation.

Work with the professionals to protect your interests and hopefully see a faster resolution. Your life can be back in order in no time – provided you follow the procedures that are in place and bring in professionals to help. Lemon law attorneys can show you the easiest ways to accomplish things that seem impossible. Don’t hesitate to have them on your side when addressing a lemon vehicle.

This information brought to you by Allen Stewart P.C.

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