Auto dealers have one goal and only one goal: make the most money possible off of each and every sale. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that dealers do not care if they sell you a lemon vehicle. Your vehicle can have any number of things wrong with it – including things that were intentionally hidden or tampered with by the dealer.
In order to know what type of issues to look for, prepare yourself before you go to the dealership. Check over the vehicle carefully and look for:
- Worn tires or floor mats on the driver’s side
- Chipped paint or signs of wear on the vehicle that don’t match with the mileage on the odometer
- Take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic to give it a once-over.
Another way to avoid possible fraud is to check the vehicle’s maintenance records and accident history. Compare these records to the current odometer reading and to what the dealer is telling you regarding the vehicle’s previous owners and any accidents it may have been in.
Beware of a vehicle with a title that says “rebuilt salvage” as this indicates it was restored after an accident. While some of these vehicles can be reliable and great daily drivers for years, others won’t be worth anything. And you will be left with a lawn ornament rather than a reliable vehicle.
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If you think you have been the victim of a dealer who was only in it for the profit, it can be challenging to prove that you were saddled with a lemon.
This is why it is good to keep track of all documentation of service records, visits to the service department and any issues you find with the vehicle. It is also a good idea to plan on notifying the manufacturer or dealer as soon as the issue becomes known with the vehicle.
If you purchased a vehicle that is still covered by the original warranty from the manufacturer – be it a new or used vehicle – and it is no more than 6 months past the first 24,000 miles driven or the first 24 months of ownership, then the Texas lemon law may be on your side.
The Texas Lemon Law
The Texas lemon law is overseen by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A special department will assign staff to your case after you file online.
How do you know you have a valid case?
Your vehicle must fit certain criteria to make you eligible for restitution through the Texas lemon law – and that is if the case is found in your favor.
The first criteria is the type of vehicle you have must be a car, truck, SUV, motorcycle, RV, TRV, or electric vehicle. It must be purchased with an original warranty from the dealer/manufacturer and it must be purchased within the state of Texas.
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Next, the vehicle must have a significant defect that both decreases the vehicle value significantly and also puts the life of the driver and/or passengers at risk when the vehicle is driven.
The 30-day test requires the vehicle to sit idle for 30 days or more during the first 24 months you own it or the first 24,000 miles it is driven – whichever comes first. It is important to note here that these days do not have to be consecutive. However, if you are having issues with the vehicle and a mechanic provides a loaner car while they look at your defective vehicle – those days do not count toward the 30-day total.
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Next is the 4 times or more test. This test involves taking the vehicle to a service department to be looked over by the mechanic. It is important here that these visits are all for the same issue. They cannot appear to be for different issues. Therefore, it is important to describe the defect the same way each time you take it to be repaired. Then, if the defect persists after the visit, it counts toward the test for a Texas lemon vehicle.
Here is where documentation is important. You need to be able to prove the four visits for the same reason – with no satisfactory result.
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It is also important to note here – as noted above – that you must let the manufacturer know that the issue exists before you file a Texas lemon law complaint. This provides them an opportunity to help you get the issue fixed.
If they do not offer to help or tell you they won’t help within a “reasonable amount of time” after you notify them (preferably this is done in writing with a way to prove it occurred), then the next step is to file the complaint through the Texas DMV.
This complaint has a fee that must be paid at the time of filing. The filing can be done through the Texas DMV website.
The process for the case typically begins with a mediation and then progresses to a hearing if the mediation does not lead to resolution. In the hearing, both sides provide their information and claims to the examiner, who then has 60 days to provide a written decision. That decision can be appealed. If the case is found in favor of the vehicle owner, then the following three options can be chosen as restitution: repurchase, repair or replacement.
Vehicle mileage is factored into the value for all three of these options. Repair is at the expense of the manufacturer. Payments are also factored in for both repurchase and replacement.
It is important to note that aftermarket additions or parts are not factored into the vehicle value for any of these restitution options. Keep that in mind when pursuing a lemon law complaint in Texas.
If you think you have been a victim of odometer fraud, contact Allen Stewart. The consultation is free.
Ways to Avoid Scams in the Future
As noted above, the best way to prepare yourself for vehicle shopping and decrease the odds of getting scammed is to be aware of things to watch for. In other words, the best defense is a good offense.
Before you go vehicle shopping, know what amount you are preapproved for (this cuts down on financing schemes and attempts to convince you to add on unnecessary coverage, etc.. that will drive up the total price you pay for a vehicle). Also, it is a good idea to have an idea of the type of vehicle you are looking for. This allows you to research specific makes, models and years and any defects or recalls that are related to that specific vehicle type.
You can also have an idea of obvious defects or signs of tampering, as noted above.
Finally, you should make sure that when you go car shopping, you are determined to get a good deal and willing to walk away if the deal is not beneficial to you. That is the best weapon to have in your car shopping arsenal. The salesman may be willing to manipulate you, and you don’t need the hassle if that is the case.