When purchasing a new vehicle, there may be a few things your well-meaning and experienced friends and family tell you. One thing that typically comes up in conversation is buying a vehicle as-is versus buying one with a warranty.
Typically, a vehicle that is sold “as is” can have any kind of issues or malfunctioning parts – and you are stuck with it. So those well-meaning individuals will tell you to buy one with a warranty.
Will this protect you?
Directly – no. However, a warranty means that the dealership or manufacturer may be responsible for the repair costs. They may take your vehicle in and repair it with no argument with that warranty clearly in place.
Even if they don’t do that, the good news is that having a warranty on the vehicle provides you additional protection in the form of the Texas lemon law. The Texas lemon law is valid for cars, trucks, SUVs, RVs, TRVs, motorcycles, vans and electric vehicles purchased in the state of Texas.
It is important to remember that this vehicle – even if it fits one of the classifications above – must be covered under an original warranty. It also must be within the first 24,000 miles or 24 months of ownership to qualify for compensation under the lemon law (and provided the case is found in your favor).
For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked Manufacturer’s Warranty Protect questions, click here.
So, you have a vehicle with an issue.
What kind of issue? The defect can’t be with an accessory system. It must be something that significantly decreases the value of the vehicle AND it puts your life at risk to drive said vehicle. That means the vehicle fits some of the lemon law criteria.
What are the other factors?
There are three tests. One was mentioned above – whether the defect is significant and life-endangering.
The next is the 30 days test. Think back to the day you bought it. Has the vehicle been unreliable and sat idle for 30 days (or more) since that day? The 30 days don’t have to be in a row. Instead, they have to be cumulative in the time period since the sale was finalized.
The final test is the four or more times test. How many times have you taken the vehicle in to have the same defect repaired? If it is four or more, then it passes this test.
However, it’s a good idea to make sure to let your manufacturer and/or dealer know when you are taking it in for the second time. This is a requirement to find resolution through the lemon law (notifying the manufacturer and/or dealer that the defect exists). It is also required that they have a reasonable amount of time to respond to this notification and help resolve the problem – although a “reasonable” amount is not clearly defined in the lemon law.
Think you have a lemon, click here to fill out a 30 second form.
Still, if these are all true, then it is time to gather your documentation and start working on filing a lemon law complaint.
Now is the time to also reach out to an experienced lemon law attorney. They can help you skip any points where you might get hung up preparing your case. They also can provide support with any of the challenging aspects.
If they are experienced and have a winning history, they can guide you through the mediation and help you avoid agreeing to something that isn’t in your best interest. Likewise, they can make sure your documentation is proper with all t’s crossed and i’s dotted.
The lemon law complaint process is a complex one. However, it is slightly shorter than pursuing a case through the state legal system. The lemon law is handled differently – as it is overseen by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. The Texas DMV has a special department that handles the complaints.
The process is as follows:
- File the complaint
- Attend mediation
- If mediation is unsuccessful, wait for a hearing date.
- Attend the hearing and share your side with the examiner.
- Wait for the examiner’s findings (no longer than 60 days).
- Appeal if you don’t get the desired results OR celebrate and receive remuneration of some sort from the manufacturer if the case is found in your favor.
Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law process.
As noted, this process is not instant but is more streamlined than a comparable case in the state’s legal system.
However, it is important to work with a lemon law attorney. They have the experience and support staff to provide you with a better sense of how things will go and what you need to accomplish to be successful in your pursuit of a resolution.
Not every case is found in favor of the vehicle owner. However, many cases that end in mediation are not satisfactory to the auto buyer. Keep that in mind. The manufacturer may attempt to get you to accept an offer that isn’t as helpful as repayment or replacement might be. Don’t let them deprive you of the compensation you deserve if they knowingly sold you a lemon.
Things to keep in mind before purchasing the next vehicle:
- Research to find the best make and model for you.
- Look into recalls for that manufacturer.
- It is also a good idea to compare different years of the same vehicle, as different ones can present with different issues.
- Always take the vehicle for a test drive. Beware the dealership that doesn’t allow this.
- Look for signs of wear that don’t match up with the odometer in the vehicle.
- It is also a good idea to look at the tires to see if the treads are very worn, but the mileage is not high on the vehicle. This is a sign of odometer tampering.
- Check the accident history (make sure this is available if you request it. If you are not provided with one, don’t buy that vehicle).
- Take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic for a onceover before you sign any paperwork.
- Make sure the vehicle has a buyer’s guide displayed in a window. Also, if your purchase is made in Spanish, make sure the buyer’s guide is provided in the same language.
Navigating the world of vehicle ownership is difficult. Sure, there are recommended milestones for when maintenance should be done. There are processes to follow when the vehicle needs repaired. And there are ways to find a resolution if you end up saddled with a lemon. Particularly in the state of Texas, residents are protected if they end up with a problematic vehicle.
Just be sure to save all receipts and repair reports. Gather your evidence and check all the boxes on the needed steps in the complaint process. Finally, make sure you find a reliable lemon law attorney.
Don’t be afraid to ask them about their wins in court. Let them tell you what manufacturers they have dealt with and any experiences they have that might be beneficial to your case. You can also ask what type of support they can offer in terms of staff for case preparation. All of this will be important to you as you struggle to make payments on a vehicle you can’t drive and find a way to get back in the driver’s seat safely. Remember your needs are the priority, as you are the one saddled with a lemon vehicle.