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What do you need to do to protect your rights under Lemon Law?
Owning a vehicle with a mechanical defect is challenging. It’s disheartening to realize you have committed to a long-term purchase that will end up tallying a significant price tag – and the product is faulty.
For those who purchased a new vehicle, still covered under warranty, and have been in contact with the dealership with unsatisfactory results, now is the time to move forward with a Lemon Law claim. The Texas Lemon Law is clear on several points related to the mechanical defect in the vehicle and the required process to ensure that the law protects you and assists in finding a resolution to the situation.
When a vehicle is purchased, there is a typical timeframe for the warranty. In Texas, it typically covers 24 months or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. If your vehicle is giving you trouble, notifying the dealership is important. It is very important to conduct that notification via written means of communication and send it via certified mail so that there is a paper trail of this process.
When contacting the manufacturer or dealer, it is important to include the following information: the make, model and VIN of the vehicle, the date it was purchased, the location from which it was purchased, a list of defects found by the dealership and the dates of the visits to the dealership to have the defects resolved, along with the fact that no satisfactory resolution had been reached.
Finally, it is wise to include the fact you consider the warranty to be breached and that the manufacturer/dealer is required to repair, reimburse, or replace the vehicle. Contact information should also be included to facilitate the communication lines and allow for transparency in efforts to move forward.
Also, it is important to remember to do this during the 24 months or within six months after that 24-month period (or the period when 24,000 miles were traveled) occurred.
There are three tests clearly outlined as part of the Lemon Law which designate the vehicle as covered and eligible for repurchase, restitution or repair at the expense of the dealership.
Those tests are: four visits to a mechanic for repair with no measurable success, 30 days being out of commission (these do not need to be consecutive) and posing a risk to the safety of the driver and/or passengers.
Considering the above tests, here it is important to mention that the vehicle owner is responsible for keeping track of pertinent information related to the vehicle’s defect. For each attempt at repair, it is wise to keep any paperwork, including receipts for payment to the mechanic and record a date and time for the vehicle’s dropoff and pickup. Next, it is important to keep track of the dates for days when the vehicle could not be driven. If the vehicle is unreliable as work transportation or inoperable in case of emergency or an important trip, those situations should be noted as well.
In order to get the ball rolling for a Texas Lemon Law complaint, it is necessary to reach out to the transportation board, which is the acting party in a hearing related to a Texas Lemon Law case. These individuals help move the process along without requiring time spent in a courtroom.
As with any situation requiring proof of defect or unsuccessful attempts to resolve an issue, the key to protecting one’s rights and ensuring the success of a Lemon Law complaint is documentation.
It is also important to clarify that the vehicle in question is covered under the Texas Lemon Law.
Affirmative answers to the following are key to moving forward with Lemon Law protection:
Is the vehicle a purchase that was conducted within the state boundaries of Texas?
Is the vehicle a car, truck, van, motorcycle, SUV, ATV, electric vehicle, motor vehicle home or TRV (towable recreational vehicle)?
Is the vehicle covered under warranty or was it covered until a period within the last six months?
Was the vehicle purchased new from a dealership and at that time covered under warranty?
Knowledge is key to the success of protecting one’s rights. It is important to be prepared and informed when car shopping, in order to hopefully avoid the need for Texas Lemon Law coverage but allowing the consumer to be prepared to use the law to their advantage if necessary.
It is important to research vehicles carefully, be aware of any recalls or recognized weaknesses in specific makes or models of a vehicle and to take the vehicle to a certified mechanic for a once-over during the test drive if possible.
When purchasing a vehicle, it is important to avoid vehicles that are for sale “as is.” That typically means the dealership is not prepared to stand behind that particular model, and that usually a problem is likely to arise sooner rather than later.
The Texas Lemon Law cannot help those who purchase a vehicle that is not covered by a warranty. Likewise, the law cannot help those who purchase a used vehicle that has had its initial warranty expire.
Understanding the limitations of the Texas Lemon Law is important to finding a resolution to the problem at hand. It is key to know what defects are covered, what time frame they are covered for and what recourse you have as a vehicle owner if your vehicle is covered by a warranty and you are still dealing with rising repair costs and no definitive answer to the vehicle’s defective behavior.
When the resolution does occur, it may not be in a way you expect it to appear. For instance, for some vehicle owners, the desire is to keep the vehicle they chose and love but have the problem resolved. While repair is one of the three R’s of potential options under the Texas Lemon Law, it may not be feasible. The Transportation Board decides which option makes the most sense based on the situation.
The other alternatives are repurchase of the vehicle (at a price that factors in the number of miles driven since it was purchased) or replacement with a vehicle of comparable make and value. Again, this takes into account miles driven and does not factor in any after-market expenses the auto owner has already accrued. The after-market changes to the vehicle will continue to be at the expense of the auto owner alone.
However, the important thing is to remember that the Texas Lemon Law exists for the protection of the auto buyer. In the event that you as a buyer are saddled with a vehicle that is defective, despite repeated attempts at repair, the law is in place to make sure the issue is resolved with minimal impact on the auto buyer’s finances. This is provided the defect is the fault of the manufacturer. The auto buyer should not be further penalized when all efforts have been made to get the vehicle fixed, and the defect is so significant that it cannot be done despite multiple attempts.