There is always a chance with any major purchase that something could go south. When purchasing a new vehicle, the chances you end up with a defective vehicle are bigger than you may expect. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates 150,000 vehicles purchased by American consumers each year contain repeating, unrepairable defects. These “lemon” vehicles can cost their owners thousands of dollars whether it be in repair costs, lost wages from not being able to go to work, alternate transportation costs, towing fees, and other unforeseen expenses stemming from a broken-down vehicle.
Every automotive manufacturer has inadvertently built lemons. The NHTSA publishes recall notices for manufacturers including Honda, General Motors, Toyota, Ford and many more. Consumers stuck with lemon vehicles do have options to get compensation, but time is of the essence. The faster they reach out to a trusted, qualified lemon law attorney they sooner they can begin the process of getting back on the road, and the sooner they start the higher the likelihood their claim will succeed. Allen Stewart P.C. has fought on behalf of thousands of clients stuck with lemons and have gotten them the compensation they deserve.
American consumers can pursue a buyback as a possible solution. A buyback, or repurchase, is when the manufacturer of your vehicle agrees to refund you the money spent on your defective vehicle. Buyback is one of the faster methods of getting compensation, since they just cut you a check for the full price of the vehicle including sales taxes, title registration and other fees. Most state laws also require the manufacturer reimburse you for incidental costs you encountered because of the vehicle’s defects, including rental car fees, towing costs, phone or mail communications made when contacting the dealership or manufacturer, personal property damage, attorney’s fees if the consumer hires an attorney after learning the manufacturer has also hired an attorney, and even room and board if the vehicle fails while on an out-of-town trip.
Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law process.
However, a simple-on-its-face buyback can come with unexpected twists. The manufacturer can legally withhold “reasonable allowances” for the consumer’s use of the vehicle depending on how much they drove it before discovering the defect and reporting it to the dealership or an authorized mechanic. To put it more directly: the further you drive the vehicle before reporting the defect, the less the manufacturer must pay when they buy the vehicle back from you. This illustrates why it is very important you immediately document the defect as soon as you find it and start the repair process as soon as possible.
Another potential avenue of compensation is replacement. This involves the manufacturer providing a vehicle as similar as possible to the original, defective one. This vehicle must be considered “comparable” to the original vehicle, meaning it must be of the same make and model as the vehicle being replaced. Just like in the case of repurchasing, the manufacturer can withhold a reasonable allowance according to how long the vehicle was driven before reporting the defect. This further illustrates how important it is to immediately report any defect to your manufacturer and start the repair process as soon as possible.
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Lemon laws, both state and federal, focus on what they call “nonconformities.” Every new vehicle in America is sold with a written manufacturer’s warranty stating the vehicle should work as intended. When the vehicle fails to do so because of a fault on the manufacturer (building errors, substandard materials, faulty components or systems), that causes the vehicle to not “conform” to the terms of the warranty. This specifically means problems not caused by the consumer themselves; if the vehicle begins exhibiting problems because of the owner’s neglect, misuse or unauthorized modifications, the owner is on the hook and not the manufacturer.
State laws differ on what they consider “serious defects” worthy of lemon law intervention. Texas state lemon law considers a serious defect any problem that substantially impairs the use or market value of a vehicle. If the problem makes it harder for the consumer to safely operate the vehicle, such as a faulty safety system or steering malfunction, Texas considers it a serious defect. A strong odor or paint job problem also falls under that definition as it would make it harder for a consumer to resell the vehicle.
The Texas lemon law specifically covers new vehicles purchased or leased in the state, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, vans, motor homes, ATVs and neighborhood electric vehicles. Before the vehicle can be considered a lemon in Texas, it must pass at least one of three “tests.” These tests are the serious safety hazard test, the four times test, and the 30 days test.
A vehicle passes the serious safety hazard test of the owner takes it to the manufacturer to repair a serious safety problem during the first 12 months of ownership or 12,000 miles driven, whichever comes first, and then once more during the 12 months or 12,000 miles following the first repair attempts without the problem being fixed. The Texas lemon law defines a “serious safety hazard” as any life-threatening malfunction that substantially impedes the driver’s ability to control or operate the vehicle normally, or that creates a substantial risk of fire or explosion.
If the vehicle’s manufacturer undergoes four repair attempts for the same problem without success, it passes the four times test.
If the vehicle has been in the shop for a defect-related repair for 30 days or more during the first two years or 24,000 miles driven without a comparable loaner vehicle offered, it passes the 30-day test.
For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked lemon law questions, click here.
The law specifies new vehicles because to be covered by lemon laws, it must still be covered by the manufacturer’s written warranty. Often, used vehicles are resold long after that warranty period expires. However, if your vehicle is used but warranty protection has yet to expire, you may have a valid claim. A qualified lemon law lawyer can look at your purchase and repair records and help you determine the best path forward.
Hiring a lemon law attorney is the single best thing you can do when presented with a lemon vehicle. Lemon lawyers know in the ins and outs of lemon law across the country and know best how to navigate the various deadlines and pitfalls within the American legal system. Allen Stewart himself said he has never seen a self-represented plaintiff appear in court and succeed; often he said the judge advised them to seek professional counsel.
“Even the simplest things in the law can be complicated because if you miss the timeline, you could lose it all,” Stewart said. “If you file the wrong paperwork, it could set you back time and money, and you might lose the case.”
The lemon law attorneys of Allen Stewart P.C. have combined decades of experience standing up for consumer rights and will defend your rights both in and out of the courtroom. They have a proven track record of getting their clients the compensation they deserve by standing up to automotive manufacturers. When your car’s maker doesn’t stand behind their warranty, Allen Stewart P.C. can step in and make sure they do. Speed is essential in a lemon law case so the longer you wait to reach out, the harder it is to get the justice to which you are entitled. Don’t wait any longer, contact Allen Stewart P.C. today.