Purchasing a new vehicle means research, budget concerns and a day out of your life, if you are headed to a dealership. For those who are hoping to buy a vehicle and not get a lemon, it is a good idea to be aware of potential fraud scenarios during a vehicle purchase.
Auto fraud is when vehicle dealers use deceptive or unlawful practices to convince the consumer to purchase a vehicle.
The advertising bait and switch method is when the auto dealer advertises a specific model vehicle, including potential cost and payments, then tells interested buyers that vehicle is no longer available but a more expensive vehicle is, and then proceeds to attempt to convince the customer to buy the more expensive vehicle.
Mileage rollback occurs when the vehicle is in the possession of the dealership, and a mechanic or other experienced individual changes the mileage on the vehicle to show a lower number than what it has actually been driven.
While in negotiation for a vehicle, keep a lookout for an inflated invoice or add-ons that are included in the vehicle price without your permission as the auto buyer. Warranties and prepaid service programs are part of the add-ons, while the inflated invoice can include additions to the invoice figure that were already included in the price, such as destination charges.
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Auto dealers also commonly convince buyers to agree to terms that aren’t ideal for them, when they qualify for lower payments. Always have an idea of your credit and the terms that would benefit you the most prior to going to a dealership. Your negotiation powers are in knowledge and being prepared.
Likewise, don’t be afraid to ask for accident history on a vehicle. Carfax is one example of a service that can provide an accurate idea of the vehicle’s accident history and repairs that have occurred, giving you a better hint of a potential lemon before you sign on the dotted line.
Vehicle ownership comes with a maintenance schedule, payments and other stresses. Don’t let the auto dealer commit fraud and expand on the hassles you have to deal with in the future.
In the event an auto dealer sold you a lemon, there are ways to determine if the vehicle is covered under the Texas Lemon Law. For those auto buyers who have a vehicle that fits the criteria, there is recourse to get the vehicle replaced or repaired.
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That’s the good news. The bad news is the criteria are stringent and also hinge on the events taking place within the first 24 months after purchase or the first 24,000 miles the vehicle is driven – whichever happens first.
For those who have a new vehicle, purchased from a dealership with warranties in effect, or someone who purchased a used vehicle that still has original warranties that have not expired, the Texas Lemon Law is possibly in your favor.
Next, you have to determine if the vehicle’s repair issues and defects qualify.
How many times have you taken your vehicle in for repair? If you said four or more, for the same issue, then you may have a lemon on your hands.
Likewise, the vehicle needs to have a defect that puts the driver and/or passengers in danger. The defect can not be with accessory systems or areas of the vehicle that aren’t going to cause a safety risk.
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Did the vehicle sit idle for 30 days or more in the first 24 months or 24,000 miles? These days do not have to be consecutive. Instead, they simply need to be within the initial period of ownership. Keep in mind that any days where a loaner vehicle was provided do not count toward this 30-day total.
Also, the manufacturer or dealer must be made aware that you have an ongoing issue with the vehicle, and this must be done in a way that can be proven. Don’t just call. Instead, send notice by certified mail to have a receipt and proof of interaction.
Likewise, it is smart to keep all service reports related to the repair attempts. When taking the vehicle in for repair, be sure to describe the same issue each time. Let the mechanics determine potential alternate ways to resolve the issue. Any variation in describing the issue could be considered a different issue reported. Avoid this confusion with consistency.
Vehicles that meet the criteria and are SUVs, cars, trucks, RVs and electric vehicles are covered under the Texas Lemon Law. There is a complaint process that involves filing a complaint online or in person with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, who oversee the Texas Lemon Law and handle those complaints. The special department that handles this part of the process assigns someone to the case as soon as the complaint is filed.
Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law process.
The first step after filing and paying a related fee is mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, an examiner hears both sides at a hearing, then has 60 days to provide a written decision. That decision can be appealed by either party if found unsatisfactory.
In that decision, the examiner determines the best resolution if the case is found in favor of the vehicle owner. This can mean repair, replacement or repurchase of the vehicle in question. The vehicle owner does not provide input on this beyond the information provided at the hearing.
This is also true of the manufacturer. The examiner weighs the information provided and moves forward with a decision based on that alone.
In the case of repair, the manufacturer is responsible for seeing that the defect is repaired completely and the vehicle is safe to drive again. This must be done in a way that is safe and satisfactory to get the vehicle on the road again and reliable. Also, reimbursement may be available for previous repair attempts that were unsuccessful.
If you think you have been a victim of auto fraud, contact Allen Stewart. The consultation is free.
In the case of replacement, a vehicle of comparable value is provided. This takes into consideration the miles driven and the payments made on the vehicle to date. This does not, however, consider aftermarket parts added to the vehicle since purchase.
Repurchase also takes into consider the number of miles driven and the payments made on the vehicle. Like replacement, aftermarket additions that may change the value of the vehicle are not taken into consideration here.
For the vehicle owner, a lemon can be a challenging issue to address. However, knowledge and documentation are a good way to make sure your vehicle troubles end sooner rather than later. In that vein, hiring an experienced lemon law lawyer with a competent staff is a good way to reduce the commitment of time and effort on your part. Let them help you gather and organize evidence and also let them guide you in the necessary procedures. The investment is well worth it if the stress-inducing trouble vehicle is taken off your hands quickly and a reliable vehicle is provided in its place.
Lemon law lawyers know the ropes and can help you navigate a potentially confusing and time-consuming process. Today’s stressor can be a thing of the past if you reach out to the right professionals. Contact Allen Stewart P.C. today to get back on the road.