Congratulations, you took the plunge. You found a vehicle you wanted and you negotiated, got the best deal you could and now you’re the proud owner of a vehicle… but there’s a problem.
At first, you think or hope you imagine it. The vehicle isn’t driving like you expected it to. You make excuses, the first day or two. You check the oil, fill the gas tank, take a deep breath and hope it goes away.
You call the mechanic and make an appointment, drop off your new vehicle and hope for the best. But, you pick it up and drive it home – and the problem isn’t fixed.
This happens again, and again. The same mechanic, a different one – still a problem with the vehicle and no resolution.
You are the owner of a lemon. That is the bad news. The good news, however, is that a lemon vehicle is covered by the Texas Lemon Law. There is hope that you can get a resolution.
The first thing is to determine whether your specific vehicle is covered under the lemon law.
Cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, motor homes, towable recreational vehicles (TRV) and electric vehicles are covered under the state law.
These vehicles must be purchased new from a dealership and still covered by their original manufacturer’s warranties.
Here, it is important to note that if the vehicle is used and not covered by an original warranty, the Texas Lemon Law can not help you. Likewise, if you purchased a vehicle that includes boats, farm equipment or non-travel trailers, the law, again, is not on your side.
The next step is to determine if the vehicle defect is one that qualifies it for coverage under the Texas Lemon Law.
- Does the defect decrease the overall value of the vehicle?
- Does the defect put the driver and/or passengers in danger?
- Does the defect make it impossible to drive the vehicle for long periods at a time?
If the answer to one of the above questions is yes, then the vehicle does have a defect that is covered by the Texas Lemon Law.
If the defect is cosmetic, does not decrease the value of the vehicle or allows the vehicle to be driven safely, then it most likely is not a defect that will be covered by the Texas Lemon Law. It may be an inconvenience to you, the vehicle owner, but it may not be enough to get a satisfactory resolution through the Texas Lemon Law. The law is intended to protect those vehicle owners who purchased their vehicle within the state of Texas and who are dealing with a vehicle that can not be relied upon to transport the owner to and from work or daily errands reliably.
The three “tests” a vehicle must pass before being declared a lemon are the four times test, 30-day test or the serious safety hazard test.
The four times test states the vehicle owner must have taken the vehicle to a mechanic or dealership four or more times (with documentation) to have the same defect fixed. These attempts all must have been unsuccessful.
It is important to note here that you should document all attempts to have the defect fixed and keep all receipts for maintenance attempted. Reimbursement for these attempts may be possible while pursuing resolution through the Texas Lemon Law.
It might be worthwhile to note that you also are required to notify the manufacturer that you have made multiple attempts to fix the defect. This is best done in writing, through the certified mail. After this notification is made, you are required to give them the chance to attempt to fix the issue (in a “reasonable amount of attempts”).
The next test is the serious safety-hazard test, where the malfunction or defect is life-threatening and “substantially impedes” your ability to control or operate the vehicle on a normal basis. Also, if it creates a substantial risk of fire or explosion, it passes this test. If this issue has not been resolved after taking the vehicle for repair twice in the first 24 months or 24,000 miles, it passes this test for lemon law purposes.
The 30-day test requires that the vehicle be out of commission for 30 days within the 24 months or first 24,000 miles. These days do not have to be consecutive. It means a cumulative 30 days of time when the vehicle is not drivable. Also, if a loaner vehicle has been provided by the manufacturer, dealer or mechanic attempting to fix the issue, those days do not count.
Now you know your vehicle is indeed a lemon as outlined by criteria under the Texas Lemon Law. You know you have to notify the manufacturer/dealer that the vehicle is defective in writing within six months after the 24 month or 24,000 mile period is up, preferably sooner. You have to give said manufacturer/dealer “reasonable attempts” to resolve the issue for you as well.
A complaint must be filed with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and the $35 filing fee must be paid. Administrative staff who are assigned to the Texas Lemon Law examine and evaluate the complaint. A hearing will be scheduled with an assigned examiner if the issue is deemed unresolved.
During the hearing, both parties can present their case. The verdict is issued in a written format to both parties following the hearing, and the verdict can be challenged by filing a motion for a hearing with the Texas DMV.
If the verdict goes in favor of the vehicle owner, then three potential ways are possible for resolution to occur. One of the three is chosen by the examiner (the vehicle owner does not get to choose). Those three options are replacement, refund or repair. The replacement will be a comparable vehicle, factoring in the number of miles driven since the vehicle was purchased. The refund will consider only the vehicle’s value with miles driven and without any aftermarket installs that have been completed. The repair option will be considered if the situation is deemed to not have given sufficient opportunity for this prior to the hearing.
As a vehicle owner in the state of Texas, it is reassuring to know there are options if your vehicle is purchased, with a defect, straight from the manufacturer. Being saddled with a lemon is not a pleasant experience, but with the proper research and backup, the issue is resolved in a timely manner. Remember to do the proper research prior to purchasing a vehicle, in order to reduce the risk of purchasing a lemon and also in order to be prepared in the event something is missed and your vehicle is a lemon. Experience is a good teacher. However, it is valuable to be aware of potential risks and outcomes prior to finding yourself in the situation. In the long run, prepared means less likelihood of dealing with a lemon vehicle.