Vehicle ownership is a responsibility and a commitment. When you purchase a new vehicle, it is with the expectation that the vehicle will be safe to drive and will operate reliably when you need it to. When issues arise, reliability is an issue and driving to work or to run errands becomes a chore rather than a simple task.
It is important to know as a vehicle buyer in Texas that there is no grace period to return the vehicle if an issue arises. Once you drive it off the lot, it is your responsibility. Before that, in fact, when the paperwork is signed, the dealership becomes responsible to let the financers know and also make the state aware that the vehicle is yours. Therefore, there is no taking the vehicle back in a day or two because the stereo isn’t what you wanted or some other small detail isn’t living up to your expectations.
For those who are unhappy with their vehicle, the modifying begins at this point. Aftermarket accessories and parts are available to bring the vehicle to a standard you can enjoy. However, if a defect arises that is more than an inconvenience, there are protections available in Texas.
In the state of Texas, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has a law they oversee called the Texas Lemon Law. The Texas Lemon Law covers defects in a vehicle that is purchased from a dealership or manufacturer and comes with a warranty. The period it covers the vehicle is the first 24 months or 24,000 miles, whichever occurs first.
There are certain criteria that determine whether the vehicle is eligible for coverage under the Texas Lemon Law. First, the vehicle must fit certain categories. It can be a car, truck, SUV, motorcycle, towable recreational vehicle, all-terrain vehicle, motor home, or neighborhood electric vehicle. Farm equipment, repossessed vehicles and boats are on the not-covered list.
Next, there are criteria the vehicle’s defect has to meet to qualify for coverage. These criteria are covered by three tests, and each test has clearly defined criteria.
The first is the four or more repair attempts test.
That test means that the situation has included four or more attempts to have the same defect repaired with no success. It is not going to help the cause if you go to the mechanic and describe the issue differently each time. Make sure to stick to the same key issue details without guessing what may or may not be the root cause. It is also good to keep documentation of these attempts for the mediation or hearing that will be scheduled.
The next test is the serious safety hazard test. This specifically means that the vehicle’s defect must significantly decrease the value of the vehicle and put the occupants at risk when it is driven.
Also, the final test, the 30-day test. This means the vehicle must sit idle for 30 days (or more) in the 24-month period after purchase (or while it’s being driven 24,000 miles). These days do not have to be consecutive. Also, if a loaner vehicle is issued to the vehicle owner, those days do not count as the vehicle in question sitting idle. This is important to show that the vehicle is not reliable and the owner has had to find alternate means of transportation while making payments or otherwise expecting their newly purchased vehicle to be reliable for transport to work or for errands.
If your vehicle fits the above criteria and you feel you have a valid case for Texas Lemon Law coverage, the process is as follows:
• The Motor Vehicle Dealer Online Complaint System is the first stop. File a complaint (and plan on spending the $35 filing fee). At that time, the manufacturer has an opportunity to make a final attempt to get the defect fixed.
• A session for mediation is scheduled. Staff from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles will sit in with both sides and attempt to find a resolution. If there is no resolution found, then a hearing is set with an assigned examiner. Both parties are given an opportunity to present their side of the case at the hearing. The examiner makes a written decision based on that hearing within 60 days. At that time, either party can appeal the decision.
In the event the hearing decision finds in your favor as the vehicle owner, there are three options for the resolution of the problem: the manufacturer can be given an opportunity to repair the vehicle you have. This may not make sense since you have made numerous attempts to repair the issue at this point, but there is always that certain situation where the manufacturer attempting to repair the vehicle may satisfy the situation in a satisfactory manner.
The next option is replacement. The manufacturer or dealer is responsible for replacing the vehicle in your possession with one of comparable value (down the number of miles this model has been driven) so that you are getting your money’s worth out of the purchase despite the fact the vehicle you drove off the lot with has a defect that cannot be repaired – despite multiple attempts.
The third option is repurchase. The vehicle is repurchased from you, reimbursing you the amount of the purchase but after factoring in the number of miles you have driven the vehicle since the date of purchase.
It is key to note here that you don’t get to pick one of the three options. The examiner in charge of the hearing finds in your favor and also determines which option fits the situation most appropriately.
The intention of the Texas Lemon Law is to protect the vehicle owner and decrease time spent in a courtroom to fight for the best outcome for the vehicle owner when a newly purchased vehicle shows signs of a defect that puts the driver in danger and decreases the overall value of the vehicle. When that defect means the vehicle has to sit for a number of days (30 days or more) and leaves the owner with no transportation (if there is a loaner vehicle because your vehicle is sitting at the mechanic waiting for repair, those days do not count), then the issue causes a lot of stress and undue expense for someone who just bought a new vehicle and does not expect to have to handle this challenge.
The Texas Lemon Law allows you to go directly to the Texas Department of Transportation with the issue and avoid a lengthy court battle. The struggle to own a reliable vehicle and not have to stress over daily transport is an unnecessary one. For those who need to be reliable when it comes to their career, the fact their vehicle is not reliable is not something an employer takes at face value.
In addition, the fact that the vehicle may require hefty payments on a monthly basis makes it even more frustrating when the owner is sending payments for a vehicle that isn’t on the road or reliable for that daily transportation.
That is why the ability to trust the Texas Lemon Law to protect the vehicle owner is ideal for those who need that protection.