Cars have defects, run into mechanical issues and have warning lights turn on in the dash display frequently. You may be frustrated because you are experiencing a string of bad luck when it comes to your vehicle. Or, you may be struggling to keep up with regular maintenance, as the oil change or other maintenance comes due and your checking account isn’t ready to handle the additional expense.
All of this comes with owning a vehicle (even if you are the responsible type that plans ahead). So when does a vehicle fit into the Lemon category? When can you consider your vehicle issues beyond the normal scope of maintenance and regular wear and tear?
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The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has a Lemon Law that the employees of the Lemon Law Section oversee. This law specifically outlines the criteria to consider a vehicle a lemon. Below, we will delve into those criteria in depth.
First, the type of vehicle matters when it comes to coverage under the Texas Lemon Law. If you drive a car, truck, van or SUV, they are covered under the Texas Lemon Law. If you have an electric vehicle or a Recreational Towable vehicle, you also will be covered. Likewise, an RV or motorcycle with a significant defect will be covered under the Texas Lemon Law.
For those who are having problems or have a defect that continues to be an issue with a boat, piece of farm equipment or a repossessed vehicle, the sad news is that won’t be covered under the Texas Lemon Law.
It is also important here to note that the vehicle has to be covered by warranty from the dealership and has to be within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles driven to qualify under the Texas Lemon Law.
Vehicle issues arise, a visit to the mechanic is scheduled and the issue is resolved. If that is not how a situation plays out and you are considering your current vehicle a lemon, there is a way to determine if you are on the right track.
Under the Texas Lemon Law, a vehicle that has sat idle for 30 days or more since it was purchased (within the first 24 months of ownership or during its first 24,000 miles driven) meets one of the criteria to be considered a lemon. That 30-day period does not have to be consecutive. The days here and there can add up to that number, and the vehicle will still qualify. Meanwhile, any day where it is at the dealership service department and a loaner vehicle is provided, it does NOT qualify as one of the days.
The key element of the Texas Lemon Law is the number of times the vehicle has been to a mechanic with a hope of resolution of the problem at hand. If the vehicle has been taken to the mechanic four or more times, with no resolution to the SAME mechanical issue, then the vehicle qualifies as a lemon under the Texas Lemon Law.
It is important to make sure you are describing the same issue to the mechanic when you take the vehicle in for repair. If you describe the concern differently in an attempt to help the mechanic find the problem, it could be considered a different issue – even if the same root problem is interfering with your ability to rely on your vehicle for consistent transportation.
Make sure to keep track of all service reports and make note of all conversations with mechanics while attempting to have the vehicle resolved.
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The vehicle issue is another component of the criteria to be considered a lemon vehicle. A minor irritation that does not impact the vehicle’s overall value or cause risk for the driver and/or passengers is not enough to put the vehicle in the lemon law category.
However, a significant issue that decreases the value of the vehicle and puts the occupants at risk when it is moving is a definite “Yes” for lemon law coverage.
Before you reach out to initiate a Lemon Law claim, it is very important to contact the manufacturer and make them aware of your issues with your vehicle. If you have made multiple attempts at repair, it is time to communicate the issue to your manufacturer, the various methods utilized to try to resolve the problem and then offer them the chance to help fix the vehicle. This should be done via certified mail so you have a timeline for when you reached out to the manufacturer or dealer.
Once you have considered the above criteria and found that your vehicle is a type covered by the Texas Lemon Law, has a defect that decreases the vehicle value and puts the driver and/or passengers at risk, has been off the road for 30 days or more within the warranty-covered timeframe and has been taken in for at least four repair attempts, then you are prepared to start gathering evidence and filing a complaint with the Texas DMV.
The quickest and most efficient way to file the complaint is online. It does require a $35 fee to file.
Once the process is initiated, the staff with the Texas DMV will schedule a mediation. Both sides will be given an attempt to discuss the issue and come up with a solution. If that attempt is not successful, then a hearing is scheduled.
For the hearing, an examiner is assigned to the case. At the hearing, both parties provide evidence to back up their side of the situation and why they are in the right. The examiner then has 60 days to provide a written determination in the case. If either party is unhappy, then there is an opportunity to appeal the decision.
If the case is found in favor of you, the vehicle owner, then there are three possible outcomes. The examiner determines the outcome – they do not take input from the vehicle owner at that point.
The first option is replacement. The defective vehicle is replaced by the manufacturer, and one of comparable value with similar miles driven is provided. Aftermarket additions by the vehicle owner are not considered while determining the vehicle’s value.
The next option is repurchase, where the manufacturer repays the vehicle owner the total amount of payments made and funds spent in an attempt to repair the defect. Again, this option does not take into account any aftermarket additions made by the vehicle owner.
The final option is repair of the defective vehicle – to the point where the defect is addressed correctly and no longer causes a concern.
The manufacturer is responsible to complete one of these three actions in a timely manner and ensure the vehicle that was an issue is no longer one.
It is important to do your research when considering a vehicle purchase. Any current recalls on a vehicle are important to know. They do not make the vehicle qualify as a lemon. Likewise, some issues that crop up with a specific model of a popular vehicle do not automatically put it in the lemon category.