The United States has 4,071,000 miles of roads. Of those, 2,678,000 are paved roadways and 1,394,000 are unpaved. Add to that the fact that Texas is tied with California and Florida for number of registered vehicles per household (and the three combined have 27% of the nation’s populace within those state’s boundaries), and it stands to reason that vehicle owners in the state of Texas may run into a vehicle that does not run and drive as it was meant to.
Purchasing a new vehicle is an exciting – and expensive – experience. A visit to a dealership, sometimes following months of research, comparison shopping and number crunching for budget boundaries, puts the buyer a step closer to vehicle ownership. Once the right vehicle is found, a test drive is conducted and paperwork is completed, the new vehicle owner drives off the lot and heads home behind the wheel.
Commuting to work or driving to a night out with friends should be a fun experience – but then something goes wrong.
Struggling with a newly purchased vehicle that does not run as it should is frustrating. In almost any conversation with friends or individuals outside the dealership, the term “Lemon Law” will come up quickly.
This type of law is designed to protect consumers from lack of recourse in a situation such as the one you currently face. However, it is important to note that there are certain aspects of the law to be aware of, before you start hoping that your issue will be resolved.
In regard to ownership of a vehicle in the state of Texas, the Texas Lemon Law specifically covers a vehicle that fits specific criteria laid out within the law’s parameters. It is important to keep in mind that the law has those criteria, as well as limitations to give the legal system a clear determination for troublesome vehicles.
There are certain limitations that may or may not make your vehicle an exception to the general coverage of the said law.
The first limitation is that the Lemon Law specifically covers motorized vehicles. This means a car, truck, van, motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle or a motorhome.
These are vehicles that are driven on highways or in other populated areas and are typically used as a means of commuting to work or traveling for business or pleasure.
While there are other vehicles that operate with motors, such as farm equipment, they are not covered under this specific law. It may be worthwhile to contact a legal representative to see if there are other laws that cover such a vehicle.
The law specifically relates to new vehicles. However, there are two scenarios where your used vehicle may also be covered. Those scenarios are:
1 – the vehicle is still covered under the manufacturer’s original warranty (despite being sold used)
2 – the defect was reported to the dealer while under the original warranty and the defect continues now.
Time frame to file under the law
The timeline for a complaint to be valid under the Lemon Law is a tricky thing to figure out. The limitation for filing a complaint is 24 months after purchase or 24,000 miles following the date of delivery of the vehicle. Also, the expiration of the express warranty term.
The complaint must be filed within six months of one of the above-mentioned deadlines.
Tests used to determine Lemon status
There are limitations when it comes to determining the eligibility of a vehicle for coverage under the Lemon Law. Meaning, there are specific tests to determine if the vehicle fits the category of “lemon.”
[Note: Remember the period of 24 months or 24,000 miles, whichever applies first to the vehicle in question. These are important criteria to determining the vehicle to be a “Lemon.”]
Those tests are:
The Four Times test
In order to be sure the vehicle can be classified as a lemon, the vehicle must have been taken to the dealership for repairs of the SAME defect four times in the first 24 months of ownership or during the first 24,000 miles the vehicle was driven. If at that time (following the fourth trip to the dealership), the defect remains an issue, the vehicle qualifies as a “lemon” under the Texas Lemon Law.
The 30-day test
The vehicle must have been out of service for 30 days of the first 24 months (this does not have to be a consecutive period. Rather, it can be a total of days throughout that period).
The reason the vehicle was out of service must be a defect covered under the original manufacturer’s warranty.
The serious safety hazard test
Here again, the 24 months or 24,000 miles comes into play. If, during that period, the vehicle has a defect that creates a substantial risk of fire or explosion or malfunctions in a way that impedes the driver’s ability to control the vehicle in a substantial way, thus putting the life of the driver and any passengers at risk, the vehicle qualifies as a lemon under this test.
What the Lemon Law Does NOT cover:
First and foremost, the Lemon Law does not cover products that are not vehicles. While there may be product laws that protect consumers in Texas, this particular law is focused on vehicles that are defective to the point of putting the owner’s life at risk. This does not allow for coverage of other consumer products.
Next, the law does not cover repossessed vehicles, non-travel trailers, boats or farm equipment.
In conclusion, the Texas Lemon Law can be a beneficial legal recourse should your vehicle be a safety risk anytime it is started up and driven. However, first the vehicle owner must consider the vehicle’s eligibility for coverage under the lemon law. Once it is established whether the vehicle was purchased new or used, whether the defect is covered under the original dealer warranty and whether it matches criteria set forth by the law stipulations (the defect became apparent within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles following purchase and passes the above mentioned tests), then the right steps can be taken to address the situation under the purview of the Texas Lemon Law. In many cases, using the lemon law is preferable to pursuing other legal recourse, as that can be a timely and costly process.
If a vehicle is covered under the law, certain options become available to the vehicle owner. Those options include repair, replacement and refund. The specific option for each vehicle will be determined based on the factors of that case.
The vehicle owner should keep in mind that a refund is given after a formula is applied that takes into account the number of miles the vehicle has been driven.
Likewise, a replacement vehicle is found that is comparable to the vehicle in question. Any upgrades are the responsibility of the vehicle owner.
Finally, repairs must be conducted that resolve the defect and ensure the vehicle does not put the driver and/or passengers at risk while operating the vehicle. This also may include reimbursement to the vehicle owner for repairs that were conducted and should have been covered by the warranty.