For most automobile owners, the discovery that your vehicle does not operate as expected once you bring it home from the dealership is a nightmare while you are awake.
In some cases, the issue is clearly something the manufacturer is responsible for, and with the fact the vehicle is new off the lot, the process to have the issue addressed can be time-consuming but ultimately is smooth from start to finish.
Sometimes, however, it can be difficult for a new auto owner to determine whether or not the issue they are dealing with is one that is covered by the Texas Lemon Law.
The first thing to understand is that the issue must be a problem that passes certain tests.
These tests are of equal weight. They don’t have to be passed in any particular order.
The first is the four-times test. The vehicle must have been taken to a mechanic (preferably the dealership) four times within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles and still be suffering from the defect.
Next, the serious safety-hazard test. As we address later with specific examples, there are some things that are common sense: if the vehicle defect is something that prevents the driver from operating the vehicle normally, it is a serious safety hazard. Likewise, if the driver finds it difficult to control the vehicle while maintaining the speed limit – or at all, at any speed – then the defect is considered a serious safety hazard. Finally (and this is another point of common sense), if the vehicle is at a greater risk of catching fire or exploding because of the defect, that becomes a serious safety hazard and is covered by the Texas Lemon Law.
If the vehicle passes this test and has been taken in for repairs twice during the first 24 months or 24,000 miles, the Texas Lemon Law applies.
The 30-day test is another test the vehicle must pass. If the vehicle has been out of service for 30 days – or more – and the driver did not receive a comparable loaner vehicle from the dealer while efforts to repair the vehicle were underway, the vehicle passes the test and is covered under the Texas Lemon law. If the owner received a loaner vehicle, those days do not count. However, the 30 days do not have to be consecutive, they only need to have occurred during the first 24 months or 24,000 miles (whichever occurs first). Here is a good time to point out that mileage requirements do not apply to vehicles without an odometer.
It is important to note that, during that 24-month or 24,000-mile period, the defect MUST have been reported to the manufacturer (preferably by written notice and ideally by certified mail).
It may be hard to decide if the issue you face will be considered a “substantial defect.” Here are a few examples, but don’t think that the law is limited to covering only these situations.
The first example would be anything that impacts the engine, prohibiting the automobile owner from driving the vehicle safely.
Next is the safety systems installed in the vehicle, again these are impacted in such a way that the auto owner’s safe travel from point A to point B is severely impeded.
Finally, an example might be the air conditioner in the vehicle, if it can be proven that the faulty a/c was a substantial impediment to the intended use of the automobile in question.
Chances for Repair
During the process of determining if a vehicle is a lemon, the manufacturer must be given a fair chance to repair the issue. The law states that “you have given the manufacturer or authorized dealer a reasonable number of attempts to fix the defect.”
The Texas Lemon Law is a state law administered by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, which can help a consumer get the vehicle repurchased, replaced or repaired, potentially saving money and or time compared to a case in the courts.
Is my vehicle covered?
An auto owner may be asking, at this point, my vehicle qualifies because of the above-mentioned tests. BUT, does it qualify based on its vehicle category?
It does if it is a new vehicle and is classified as any of the following: cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, motor homes, towable recreational vehicles (TRVs), and neighborhood electric vehicles that develop a defect(s). Here it is important to mention that the defect is covered by a manufacturer’s written warranty.
If the vehicle has been previously repossessed, it is not covered.
Likewise, farm equipment, boats and non-travel trailers are not covered. When it comes to the defects covered, it is key to understand that defects including minor rattles or radio static – those that do not impair the use of the vehicle or interfere with market value – are not covered by the Texas Lemon Law.
The 3 R’s: When the auto owner wins
An auto owner whose vehicle is covered under the Texas Lemon Law has three potential outcomes to their case once it is established the vehicle is a “Lemon.” These are varied and are determined by the ruling authority in the case. This is not a situation where the options are presented and the auto owner chooses the most suitable alternative.
The first is a refund, where the manufacturer offers to pay the purchase price, including taxes, title and license fee. There will be a fee deducted for vehicle use, based on a formula that factors in the miles the vehicle has been driven.
Next is replacement, where the manufacturer is ordered to replace the “lemon” vehicle with one that is comparable in value to the original (minus the mileage used). In this instance, any upgrades the auto owners hope to have done are at their own expense.
Repair is also an option. The manufacturer must pay for the repair and also reimbursement to the auto owner for previous repairs might be possible.
One of these three options is dictated by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
It is important to understand the parameters of the Texas Lemon Law. This provides the auto owner with an option that does not involve a lengthy court battle, particularly beneficial when the vehicle is the primary source of transportation for work or travel and isn’t driveable. The addition of a court case and related fees would be detrimental to the finances of someone in need of reliable transportation.
With this in mind, the Texas Lemon Law provides a more time-sensitive alternative and one that will allow for resolution of the issue in a way that gets the auto owner back behind the wheel of a reliable vehicle and ready to take on their daily to-do lists, no matter where their wheels may take them. The most important factors are to determine if the defect interferes with driver safety and/or vehicle operation that could lead to injury, whether the defect impedes vehicle use to a certain extent and to make sure to notify the manufacturer of the ongoing issues. At that point, it becomes a matter of proper documentation and communication and the adequate coverage of the law itself. Auto owners who deal with a defective vehicle understand that time is of the essence in these situations.