Gas mileage, a tow package, the color of the interior – the debate of what vehicle to purchase is a challenge built a series of decisions and options. Once you determine the vehicle you have will no longer suffice, it is time to narrow down your options, read reviews and make some visits to different dealerships.
In today’s world, those visits can even be completed through your cell phone, rather than physically setting foot on the dealership lot. However, before you buy a new vehicle, understand that more than 150,000 lemons are sold each year. That means the chance is real that your new vehicle could be a lemon and could show a defect that could put you at risk when driving.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles oversees the Texas Lemon Law for the state. For anyone who purchases a vehicle from a dealer or manufacturer within the state’s borders and the vehicle is covered by warranties from the dealer/manufacturer, there is hope that a resolution can be reached through protection from this law.
The first thing to understand is that the vehicle in question needs to show a significant defect that either puts the driver and passengers at risk or significantly lessens the financial value of the vehicle. Typically, the defect will do both.
Next, it is important to understand what vehicles are covered by the Texas Lemon Law. Those vehicles include cars, trucks, SUVs, RVs, Towable Recreational Vehicles and electric vehicles. Vans, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles are also covered under this law.
For those with defective farm equipment, such as tractors, or boats or non-travel trailers, the news is not so good. These vehicles and property are not covered by the Texas Lemon Law.
There are various tests that must be conducted to determine if the vehicle is defective and if it is covered by the Texas Lemon Law. Likewise, there is documentation that must be available during the complaint process in order to prove the vehicle fits the various criteria outlined below.
The first test to consider is the four times test. It is important that the vehicle has been taken in to have repairs attempted four (or more times), each time with the same specific defect noted. Despite these attempts, the defect remains. Service reports outlining the defect and the attempts to repair it are a necessary part of the documentation that will ensure success in the lemon law complaint process.
For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked lemon law questions, click here.
There is also a timeframe for these repair attempts. They must be made within the first 24 months following purchase or by the time the vehicle has been driven 24,000 miles – whichever comes first.
Along with the four attempts, there must have been contact with the manufacturer or dealer to make them aware of the defect. The manufacturer must also have been given a reasonable amount of time and a reasonable number of attempts to have the vehicle defect resolved in a satisfactory manner.
It is wise to keep documentation of the communication with the manufacturer, as this will be needed as part of the complaint process. The criteria must show that communication attempts were made, and the manufacturer did not attempt to assist with resolving the defect in the vehicle.
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The serious safety hazard test is the second in the list of criteria to meet. In this test, the vehicle must be taken to a reputable mechanic for resolution of a life-threatening defect, which creates risk of fire or explosion when the vehicle is driven or that seriously impedes the driver’s ability to control the vehicle while it is on the road.
Finally, the 30-day test determines the amount of time the vehicle sits idle as a result of the defect. If the vehicle sits and cannot be driven for 30 days or more, within the first 24,000 miles driven or the first 24 months of ownership, then it is considered a lemon under the given criteria. In an interesting aside, the vehicle must sit idle and the owner must not receive a loaner vehicle, or the days the vehicle sits idle do not count toward this 30-day total.
Meanwhile, the vehicle does not have to sit for 30 consecutive days. Instead, the day count can be cumulative over the 24 months or 24,000 miles, as long as it can be proven it sat idle due to the same defect all of that time.
A lemon law complaint must be filed with six months of the end of the 24 month period following purchase or within six months of the vehicle hitting the 24,000 mile mark of driving – again, whichever of these two milestones is reached first.
Another timeframe is if the express warranty runs out before either of the above-mentioned milestones: the complaint must be filed within six months of the final day the warranty covered the vehicle.
Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law process.
For those who have a vehicle on their hands who feel it fits the above criteria, the next step is to file a complaint. This can be done online, provided the fee can be paid at that time. Once the complaint is filed, the special department of the Texas DMV will begin handling the complaint. Mediation will be scheduled, and an attempt to resolve the situation will be made. However, if that is unsuccessful, a hearing will be scheduled where both parties will be able to share their side of the situation.
For auto owners who have the case found in their favor, the vehicle might be repurchased, repaired or replaced with one of comparable value.
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For those individuals who have it repurchased or replaced, the vehicle’s value at the time of purchase is considered, as are the number of payments made and the number of miles driven. However, any aftermarket additions that have been made will not be taken into account for the value of the vehicle and/or the price to be paid.
The Lemon Law process can take time – although not as much time as it would take for a lawsuit to make its way through the court system. With this in mind, the time to reach out to legal counsel is while you are considering and/or gathering information for the filing of the complaint. Lemon Law lawyers have the experience to help guide the process and evidence gathering, and they also have a staff that can smooth this process considerably.
Once you have a grasp of the basics of the process and have reached out to a professional who can help with the nuances of the process, the likelihood of your successful resolution increases. The vehicle in question may be a lemon, but that does not mean you have to deal with that and have no hope of financial restitution.
Take note of any potential defects that may occur with the vehicle you own, and make sure that there are not currently recalls out for the vehicle – as these may have an influence on the eligibility under the Texas Lemon Law. With all of this under consideration, the results of your efforts will be worth your time and the vehicle won’t continue to be a source of financial stress.