Vehicle owners who realize they purchased a vehicle with a defect tend to stress over what to do next. There are options available for those who are currently in possession of a defective vehicle. Those options include federal protection and also state laws.
The Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act (P.L. 93-637) is a United States federal law that was enacted in 1975. The act covers warranties on consumer products and was created to fix problems as a result of manufacturers using disclaimers on warranties in an unfair or misleading manner.
The basics of the law are as follows: a plaintiff is tasked with proving there is a valid warranty and the product was taken in for repairs while that warranty was active. The plaintiff also must show that, despite a reasonable number of repair attempts, the product, in this case a vehicle, was not repaired in a satisfactory manner.
The warranty on parts is covered by Magnuson-Moss, but a warranty on services for repairs is not. Meanwhile, the federal minimum standards for full warranties are waived if the warrantor can show that the problem associated with a product was caused by damage while in the possession of the consumer, or by unreasonable use, including a failure to provide reasonable and necessary maintenance. This is even if the warranty is still in effect for said product.
The Texas Lemon Law
Now that you know the potential downside of hoping to find resolution to a defect with a vehicle through the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, it’s time to discuss the Texas Lemon Law.
For Texas automobile owners who purchased their vehicle within the state, a new vehicle off the lot covered by warranty is covered through this law. The vehicle must have a defect that puts the driver at risk and significantly impacts the vehicle’s value. It also must have been taken to the service department more than once to have the same issue fixed, with no satisfactory results.
The Texas Lemon Law has specific criteria it sets in order for the vehicle to be eligible for protection under the law, after it is established the vehicle is covered under warranty.
The first is that the law only covers specific types of vehicles: cars, trucks, motorcycles, SUVs, neighborhood electric vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, motor homes and towable recreational vehicles (TRVs). This law does not cover boats, farm equipment or repossessed vehicles.
If your vehicle fits the above-mentioned covered categories, then the next determination becomes whether or not the defect is covered.
The first question to ask is whether the defect significantly impacts the value of the vehicle or not. If that is the case, chances are that defect will be covered by the Texas Lemon Law. Also, if that defect puts the driver and/or passengers in danger, then the defect will be covered. Defects that inconvenience the driver, such as an issue with accessory systems or the entertainment system are not covered by the Texas Lemon Law.
Next, it is time to see if the vehicle qualifies based on the details of repair attempts. It is important to remember to describe the defect the same way each time you take it to the mechanic. That way, it is clear you are hoping they will address the same issue. If you attempt to describe the problem in a new way when making a repeat visit to the service department, it may not be as apparent to the examiner in a hearing that the defect in question is the same for both repair visits.
The first step is to determine the number of times a vehicle has been taken to the dealership or mechanic for repair. If you have four or more documented attempts to repair the same defect, then this will help you prove your case during mediation and/or hearings related to a complaint filed under the Texas Lemon Law. It is wise to keep all service reports for this purpose. It is also important to keep any reports for visits where you were hoping to have the issue resolved, even if the mechanic did not find a solution to the issue.
Next is the timeframe the vehicle spends out of service. If you have a vehicle with a defect that makes it impossible to drive for 30 days or more during the first 24 months or 24,000 miles, then it qualifies under the Texas Lemon Law. Those 30 days do not have to be consecutive. Instead, you must prove the vehicle was idle for 30 or more days during that period due to the defect and you were not provided a loaner vehicle for the periods it sat idle.
Finally, it is important to make sure to document all of this and to make the manufacturer and/or dealer aware of the problem. The manufacturer will be given an opportunity to make reasonable attempts to fix the defect. Therefore, it is wise to make them aware of the issue when it becomes apparent it may be something that is not fixed easily with a visit to the service department.
Likewise, it is important to consider the fact that the dealer must be informed in a way that is traceable. Using certified mail is a good way to make sure they are informed and you have a way to show proof that you reached out and made them aware of the situation.
Once the issue is known to all parties, then the possibility of a complaint filed under the Texas Lemon Law becomes a viable one. This complaint can be filed on the internet. A $35 fee is required. Once the case is filed, a case advisor is assigned. They will consider the evidence presented and arrange for mediation between the vehicle owner and the dealer and/or manufacturer. If a resolution cannot be reached at that time, a hearing is scheduled. Both parties can present their case to the examiner, who then has 60 days to provide a written decision.
If the case is found in favor of the vehicle owner, the examiner is responsible for determining the outcome to resolve the issue. Three potential options exist to resolve the vehicle defect. One is repair, which is paid for by the manufacturer. Another is replacement of the vehicle with one of comparable value, with consideration given to the miles driven and payments made on the defective vehicle since it left the dealership lot. One thing that is not considered is the aftermarket additions the owner may have purchased and installed on the vehicle.
The third and final option is repurchase, which means the manufacturer buys the vehicle back from the owner, again considering the amount paid on the vehicle and miles driven but not factoring in any aftermarket investments the owner has funded since purchasing the vehicle.
It is reassuring to know that, provided you keep the right documentation and can prove the issue is one that significantly impacts the effectiveness of the vehicle, the Texas Lemon Law can allow for the vehicle owner to get a satisfactory resolution to the issue at hand. Owning a vehicle that is financed but not working effectively is an issue and the law is on your side to find resolution.