You bought a lemon. Now what?
No, I’m not talking about a bright yet sour fruit piled in a pyramid at the grocery store, just waiting to fall over. I’m talking about a new vehicle – brand new off the lot, covered by original warranty. I’m talking about a car, truck, SUV, TRV, or RV. I am even talking about a new electric vehicle, provided it fits the criteria below.
If it is a bona fide lemon, then Texas has good news for its residents: the Texas lemon law protects your legal rights as a vehicle owner with a lemon.
Each year, across the US, more than 125,000 lemons hit the auto dealer lot, sit through visitors and buyers until someone determines them to be the perfect one – then that vehicle gets driven to a person’s residence and parked outside.
Those people are beyond excited to have this new vehicle at hand. They envision fun, reliability, and the potential to grow and definitely to go earn money.
So what happens when those people (and you, I’m guessing), realize they have been saddled with a lemon? They start looking for help. They want an answer to what to do next, and the answer is the Texas lemon law.
The Texas Lemon Law
The Texas lemon law covers new vehicles, ones that leave the lot with an original warranty and are still covered by said warranty when the defect makes itself known. The law also only covers cars, trucks, SUVs, Vans, RVs, TRVs and electric vehicles. These vehicles must be within the honeymoon period of 18 months since purchase or the first 18,000 miles driven -whichever comes first in the vehicle’s lifespan.
So, here you are, with a vehicle that meets the above criteria. You are a step closer to having a vehicle that can be labeled a lemon. Now what do you have to consider?
For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked lemon law criteria questions, click here.
In order to be considered a lemon under the Texas lemon law, your vehicle must have been taken to a mechanic FOUR times – or more – within the first 18 months or first 18,000 miles driven. During those four (or more) attempts, the issue is not resolved. THIS makes your vehicle a lemon – along with a few other things.
A vehicle that isn’t reliable and isn’t safe to drive tends to sit idle. Your vehicle fits the lemon category if it sits idle for 30 days during the first 18 months or 18,000 miles driven. Those days don’t have to be in a row. They can be spread out but must total 30 or more.
It is also important to note here that if your garage or mechanic gave you a loaner vehicle while your vehicle was sitting and waiting for repair, those days DO NOT count toward the 30-day total.
One important factor for the Texas lemon law is that the defect means you as the driver, and your passengers, are at a significant risk of injury or death due to the defect. It can’t be something that is a minor inconvenience to you while driving. It has to be significant. In the same vein, it also has to significantly decrease the value of the vehicle.
More good news on the Texas lemon law front – the complaint can be filed online. It is filed through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, which oversees the Texas lemon law from complaint to resolution. This keeps the cases out of the state’s legal system. While this speeds up the process some, it still takes some time to reach a resolution.
Think you have a lemon, click here to fill out a 30 second form.
Once the complaint is filed, a staffer will look over the documentation. Working with a Texas lemon law lawyer means you will have the right documentation at hand and make sure everything is done in a timely manner. A lawyer will help you reach out to the manufacturer and make sure they have a “reasonable amount of time” to help you get the repairs done without a complaint on the books (what? You didn’t know you had to do that? That’s what the Texas lemon law attorney is there for.)
Mediation is the next step in the process. Be forewarned that if you attempt this process on your own, the manufacturer will try to scare or guilt you into resolving it – and they probably won’t let you walk away with any help. They have a ton of tactics they try for these types of cases. It is very smart to have legal representation on your side to avoid these potential risks. That way, your case has a better chance of making it to a resolution that is satisfactory to you.
If mediation does not resolve the case, then a hearing is scheduled. An examiner (again, through the Texas DMV) is assigned. They hear both sides of the argument and then have 60 days to provide a written decision. That decision can be in favor of either side. If it is in favor of you, the auto owner, then you may find they chose one of three options for your restitution.
The first is repair. This means the manufacturer is responsible for making sure the vehicle you have is repaired and once again safe to drive. It is possible they have to make restitution for the previous amounts you paid in attempting to have the repairs done. This is up to the examiner.
Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law complaint process.
The next option is replacement. In this case, the number of miles the lemon vehicle has been driven factor in, as do the number of payments made on the vehicle to date. However, the vehicle as it sits, including any aftermarket additions, do not factor into this calculation. A vehicle of comparable value is provided, and the manufacturer takes the lemon into its possession and off your hands.
The third option is repurchase. Again, all three of these options are at the discretion of the examiner. They do not ask for input from the vehicle owner before choosing one of these options. Repurchase means the vehicle is taken into the manufacturer’s possession, with financial restitution made to you as the auto owner. This amount does take into consideration the miles the vehicle has been driven and the amount you have paid on the vehicle thus far. However, if you have made significant investments into aftermarket additions to the vehicle, be prepared to take a hit. These aftermarket additions are not factored into the overall value of the vehicle when it is repurchased.
So here you are (hopefully with your lemon law attorney), and you are considering the lemon law process in Texas. Remember, the alternative is paying on a vehicle you can’t drive and potentially watching it rust away into your front lawn (or somewhere on your property). This does not get anyone from Point A to Point B. It is frustrating and costly.
Instead of this frustration, reach out to a lemon law lawyer now and get the ball rolling to have this lemon taken off your hands and put back on the shoulders of the manufacturer that sent it out for sale in the first place.