Automobile owners face a car payment, the cost of fuel on a regular basis and insurance payments either monthly or every six months. This is a hefty part of the regular bills handled by adults. When the vehicle, rather than being a steady means of transport to work, the grocery store or school, becomes a motionless metal statue on the lawn or driveway, that brings added cost and frustration.
In the state of Texas, there is recourse for a vehicle owner who finds a newly purchased vehicle has a defect that needs to be addressed. If repairs are attempted and a resolution does not occur after the first try, it is important to start keeping track of the attempts, dates and details of the defect and issues the mechanic attempts to resolve. It also is important to recognize that there may be a complaint you have to file if the issue does not get resolved effectively through repair.
The Texas Lemon Law is a state law that is administered by the Texas Department of Transportation, rather than addressed in a court of law. The process to file a complaint using the Texas Lemon Law involves a specific department of the Texas DMV – the Lemon Law section, which has its own set of staff to handle said complaint. When the complaint is received, an advisor is assigned to the case who is a member of the Texas DMV staff.
Below are some things you should know if you are preparing to file a complaint that relies on the Texas Lemon Law to help you resolve a situation with a defective vehicle.
1. Mediation is the first step in the process. If both parties cannot reach a satisfactory conclusion to the issue through mediation, then a hearing is held where both parties can present their case and the examiner in charge is tasked with determining an outcome and providing a written decision within 60 days of the conclusion of the hearing. This decision can be challenged by either party if found unsatisfactory. This appeal is filed through the state district court. When preparing for a case where the Texas Lemon Law is the potential protection you as a vehicle owner are hoping will find in your favor, it is best to keep detailed records of the attempts to repair (all service reports are key here), the communication between yourself and the manufacturer (certified mail is best) and the time frame where the consumer can’t safely drive the vehicle.
2. In order to qualify as a vehicle covered by the Texas Lemon Law, the vehicle must fit certain categories: car, truck, SUV, motorhome, van, motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle, towable recreational vehicles and neighborhood electric vehicles. If the vehicle has been repossessed, is a boat, farm equipment, or non-travel trailer, it will NOT be covered under the Texas Lemon Law.
3. The vehicle also must be covered by an original manufacturer’s warranty at the time the defect becomes known and numerous unsuccessful repair attempts are made. Specifically for Texas, this means it must be covered by a warranty that extends 24 months or to cover the first 24,000 miles – whichever occurs first.
4. There are certain criteria that have to be met in order to be protected under the Texas Lemon Law. One is that the vehicle must have a defect that significantly decreases the value of the vehicle and puts the driver and/or passengers at risk when the vehicle is driven. Next, the vehicle owner must make four or more attempts to repair the SAME defect, with no satisfactory resolution. This means taking the vehicle to the dealership to have the issue resolved. It requires you describe the issue the same way, rather than attempting to guess the possible problem and have the service department address that. The mechanics are aware there are multiple potential fixes to an issue, and they will address the issue in whatever way seems suitable. The important part is the describe the defect the same way so it is recognizable that you are attempting to have the same issue fixed each time -regardless of the repairs they attempt as potential resolution. Finally, the vehicle must be out of service for 30 or more days during the 24-month/24,000 miles driven window. That means you do not get a loaner vehicle from the mechanic and have no transportation via this vehicle or one provided as a temporary replacement.
5. There are three potential outcomes for the vehicle owner in the event the examiner finds in their favor. The examiner is the one who determines which of the three suits the case. Those three outcomes are repair, reimbursement or replacement. Repair involves another attempt to resolve the defect in a way that makes the vehicle reliable and does not involve any future repairs for that specific defect. This will be handled by the manufacturer, provided the case is found in favor of the vehicle owner and the examiner overseeing the case determines this is the best way to resolve the case at hand. Reimbursement means repayment to the vehicle owner, with considerations taken into account related to the number of miles the vehicle has been driven since the date of purchase. Any aftermarket additions the vehicle owner made are not taken into account when reimbursement is the option the examiner chooses. Replacement is the requirement that the manufacturer provide the vehicle owner with a comparable vehicle to the one they currently have that is defective. The number of miles driven is taken into consideration with this option as well. Like the replacement option, aftermarket additions are not factored into the replacement vehicle criteria.
The Texas Lemon Law sets specific criteria, and vehicle owners who are aware of these criteria and work to show documentation that the vehicle fits the classification have much more success in finding resolution through Texas Lemon Law protection.
Owning a vehicle is a relief when it is working properly and a challenge and frustration in a situation where said vehicle becomes another issue to deal with rather than reliable transport. However, with the proper awareness and effort to document the issue, this problem can be resolved in a timely manner through the Texas Department of Transportation and the provisions of the Texas Lemon Law.
The process is a manageable one, with availability online to file the original complaint. Also, anyone with questions or concerns on a particular aspect of the Texas Lemon Law can reach out to the Texas DMV for assistance.
It is important to understand that a complaint covered by the Texas Lemon Law must be filed within a specific time frame. That time frame is: within six months of the expiration of the express warranty term, 24 months after purchase or when the odometer hits the 24,000 mile mark after purchase.
Vehicle ownership is more than paying the insurance and knowing a good local mechanic. Being aware of the Texas Lemon Law is helpful if you run into a situation where repairs are needed and the vehicle continues to be a problem despite efforts to resolve the issue. Knowing what is expected of you in a Texas Lemon Law case means you have better odds of getting assistance to resolve the defect and get you back in a reliable vehicle.