Vehicle ownership is a big commitment. Unlike a new shirt or a pair of sneakers, there is no window to return a vehicle if you find it doesn’t suit your style or travel needs.
Once a contract is signed at the dealership, that new vehicle is your responsibility. You drive off the lot and take ownership, and there is no going back.
If a situation arises where you don’t feel confident in your choice, you can reach out to the dealership within 24 or 48 hours and see if they are willing to work with you. However, be prepared to hear them say there is nothing they can do. In the event they take that vehicle back, it may be as part of a trade-in situation where you end up paying significantly more for the next vehicle as a result.
If no help is offered, that means you are left with a vehicle in your possession that may not suit your needs or fit with what you hoped to achieve when you set out to purchase a new vehicle.
That can be disappointing. However, there may still be options for resolving your vehicle situation.
The first and most important thing to do in these situations is to stay current on the payments for the vehicle. It won’t help your credit or your vehicle situation to skip payments and have the vehicle repossessed.
Driving a vehicle you may not like is frustrating. However, if the issue is not one with how the vehicle drives or a safety issue, then it might be wise to just set a goal to trade the vehicle at a reasonable date in the future and drive it for now.
If the vehicle puts you at risk while you are behind the wheel or creates a situation where the vehicle is not drivable for a lengthy period of time, it may be time to consider the criteria of the Texas Lemon Law.
First and foremost, consider if the vehicle has an issue that is a safety hazard. If the driver and/or passengers are at risk of injury while traveling in the vehicle, it may be covered under the Texas Lemon Law.
Issues with the entertainment system, A/C or interior features are not going to qualify the vehicle as a lemon under Texas Lemon Law. Only issues that are significant to the operation of the vehicle and can be proven to decrease the value of the vehicle are eligible for Texas Lemon Law coverage.
The vehicle also has to be covered by a warranty from the dealership when it is purchased to qualify under this law. Typically, the various criteria also have to be met within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles the vehicle is driven, so keep those factors in mind if you have had the vehicle for a while and are just now deciding that it might be covered by the Texas Lemon Law.
If you are experiencing difficulty with the vehicle’s operation, feel your safety is at risk when you drive it or the vehicle simply cannot be driven for a number of days, then it is time to start carefully keeping track of all of these details.
A vehicle with a defect needs to be taken to the mechanic to attempt to repair said defect four times or more (and make sure you are reporting the defect the same way each time you take the vehicle in), so be sure to keep service reports from these visits.
Also, the vehicle defect must impair the vehicle so that it cannot be driven for 30 days or more during the first 24 months or 24,000 miles driven. These days do not have to be consecutive, but they do have to be days when a loaner vehicle is not offered from a mechanic if there is one attempting to resolve the issue with the vehicle.
Next, the manufacturer needs to be notified that an issue exists with the vehicle. This notification will preferably be made in writing and sent via certified mail within 6 months after the first 24 months of ownership or the first 24,000 miles driven.
These conditions are all part of the Texas Lemon Law. If the defect is serious enough to decrease the vehicle value and the safety and driver and passengers, it is time to start keeping closely documented track of the attempts at repair.
Also, it is important to know that the manufacturer needs to be given an opportunity for reasonable attempts to get the vehicle fixed, even after four attempts have been made on your part as the vehicle owner.
One more thing: vehicles covered under the Texas Lemon Law include cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, motorhomes, neighborhood electric vehicles and towable recreational vehicles. If you are dealing with a piece of farm equipment, a boat or a non-travel trailer, these are not vehicles that the Texas Lemon Law covers.
However, if your vehicle is on the list of covered vehicles and seems to fit the qualifications above, it is time to file a complaint with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. This method of dealing with a defective vehicle is less time-consuming than pursuing a case through the court system. The complaint is filed (with a fee) and looked over by the Lemon Law section administrative staff and assigned to a staff case advisor.
Mediation between the vehicle owner and the manufacturer is attempted. If mediation is not successful, a hearing is scheduled to allow both sides to plead their case. Within 60 days of the hearing, the examiner will provide a final written decision, which either party can appeal if they find the resolution unsatisfactory.
If the hearing finds in favor of the vehicle owner, then there are three possible options for resolution – one of which is chosen by the examiner. The options are: repair, reimbursement and replacement.
In the event of reimbursement, the vehicle is considered without any cost of aftermarket additions and also factoring in the miles the vehicle has been driven. In the case of replacement, a comparable vehicle will be found (also factoring in the number of miles the defective vehicle has been driven).
The process to resolve issues with a defective vehicle under the Texas Lemon Law may require a commitment and meticulous record keeping on your part. However, they are a possible resolution to a potentially very expensive problem. This means you can address an issue with a new car and not simply let it repossessed, with significantly impacts future credit and attempts to get a replacement vehicle.
In the future, careful consideration of the vehicle, a mechanic’s inspection and an understanding of potential issues that could crop up after purchase may be worth the time prior to signing the paperwork for a new vehicle.
However, even with the best intentions and the most careful research and investigation, lemon vehicles do crop up unexpectedly. That is why it is wise to understand the Texas Lemon Law and its various criteria. Being prepared and taking the time to carefully document vehicle issues can help you get the protection you deserve from a law specifically put in place to provide that protection.