The Texas Lemon Law is administered by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Similar to lemon laws in other states, the Texas Lemon Law is designed to help consumers who purchase or lease a new motor vehicle and then experience problems getting their vehicle fully and competently repaired under the original manufacturer’s warranty.
A consumer may be able to obtain a refund of the purchase price they paid for their lemon vehicle. Or, they may be able to obtain a replacement comparable vehicle.
Another available remedy may be having the vehicle repaired. The Texas Lemon Law covers brand-new vehicles that develop a defect of the type covered by a manufacturer’s written warranty, including the following:
- Personal automobiles;
- All-terrain vehicles;
- Motor homes;
- Recreational vehicles of the type that are towed; and
- Neighborhood electric vehicles.
An individual should keep in mind that lemon laws are only one possible avenue for assistance when their new vehicle is not what it should be. There may also be other ways to seek redress, such as a lawsuit for breach of express or implied warranty.
In order to determine what remedies may be available to an individual who purchased a lemon in Texas, they should consult with a local attorney in Texas.
Does the Texas Lemon Law Cover Used Vehicles?
The Texas Lemon Law may apply to a used vehicle in some cases. Because this law enforces the manufacturer’s warranty, it can apply to a used vehicle if that vehicle is still under warranty.
However, the law does not apply to extended service contracts. Even if a warranty has expired, if the defect appeared and was reported to the dealer during the time the original manufacturer’s warranty was in effect and the defect continued to exist, the repair assistance offered by the Lemon Law may still be available.
There are also other laws, including warranty law, contract law, or the law of misrepresentation, that may help the owner of a used vehicle.
How Can I Tell if My Vehicle Is a Lemon?
In order to qualify under the Texas Lemon Law, a vehicle must meet all of the following criteria:
- The vehicle had a substantial defect that came up during production;
- A manufacturer’s written warranty covers the defect;
- The owner reported the defect to the dealer or the manufacturer within the warranty coverage period;
- The owner provided the dealer with a reasonable number of opportunities to repair the defect;
- The owner provided the manufacturer with written notice of the defect as well as at least one opportunity to fix the defect;
- It is best if the written notice is sent by certified mail; and
- The defect persists and substantially impairs the vehicle’s use or market value or creates a serious safety hazard.
How Do I Report a Lemon Car or Vehicle?
In order to report a lemon vehicle, the consumer can file a Lemon Law complaint with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles for $35. Doing this will provide notice of the complaint as well as a last opportunity to repair the defect to the proper manufacturer.
How Often Does the Dealer Get To Try to Fix the Defect?
The Lemon Law presumes that the owner has provided the manufacturer or authorized dealer a reasonable number of opportunities to fix the defect if they meet one of the following criteria:
- The four-times test: An individual has taken the vehicle to a dealership for repair of the same defect at least four times within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles of ownership, whichever comes first, but the defect is still not repaired;
- The serious safety-hazard test: A serious safety hazard is a life-threatening malfunction that substantially impedes the driver’s ability to control or operate the vehicle normally. Or it might create a substantial risk of fire or explosion.
- An individual meets the serious safety-hazard test if they have taken the vehicle to be repaired at least two times within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles of ownership, whichever comes first, and the defect is still not repaired; and
- The 30-day test: An owner passes the 30-day test if their vehicle is of service for repair because of a defect that was covered by the original factory warranty for 30 days or more;
- The vehicle has to have been out of service within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles;
- However, if they were provided with a comparable loaner vehicle during the repair period, the time does not count toward 30 days;
- If the owner satisfies the 30-day test, the Lemon Law presumes that a substantial defect still exists.
It is important to note that mileage requirements typically do not apply to vehicles that do not have odometers.
How Long Do I Have to File a Complaint Under the Lemon Law in Texas?
A Texas Lemon Law complaint has to be filed within six months after one of the following events, whichever happens first:
- The express warranty expires;
- Within 24 months following the purchase of the vehicle; or
- After the vehicle has been delivered and displays 24,000 miles on the odometer;
- This time limit does not apply to trailers that do not have an odometer.
The filing period will be determined by whichever of the events happens first. Just to be safe, the owner of a lemon vehicle should file their complaint as soon as they determine that the dealer is having issues repairing the vehicle.
What Happens if I Win?
In Texas, the lemon law provides a statement of the remedies, or types of relief, to which an owner may be entitled if they successfully prove their case. Each case is unique, and the department will review the facts and circumstances of each case when making a decision.
It is important to note that Texas Lemon Law complaints are filed with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. If an individual wins their case, the Texas DMV may order one of the following remedies:
- A refund of the purchase price: The manufacturer can be ordered to buy back the vehicle for the purchase price. This includes taxes, the title, and license fees the owner paid;
- A charge for using the vehicle could be subtracted from the refund;
- The amount that is permitted to be subtracted for use is determined using a formula that includes the number of miles on the vehicle at the hearing as well as other factors;
- A refund may be possible for a lease-purchase agreement and a towable recreational vehicle;
- The refund will not include any interest that was paid on an automobile loan that funded the purchase of the vehicle;
- Replacement: The Texas DMV may order the manufacturer of the vehicle to replace the defective vehicle with another that is comparable to the original. That would mean a vehicle that is the same make and model and equipped with the same accessories as the original minus the mileage used. It must also be acceptable to the consumer; or
- Repair: The manufacturer must repair the vehicle’s defects. Any expenses the owner paid out-of-pocket for repairs the warranty should have covered may also have to be reimbursed.
It is important to note that only new vehicles may qualify for a refund or replacement.
What Types of Vehicles Are Not Covered by the Texas Lemon Law?
The Texas Lemon Law does not cover all types of vehicles. Vehicles that are not covered under this law include:
- Vehicles that have been repossessed;
- Non-travel trailers, for example, trailers for transporting equipment;
- Boats; and
- Farm equipment.
In addition, the Texas Lemon Law does not apply to a defect that does not substantially impair the use of the vehicle or its market value.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you believe that you may have purchased a lemon vehicle in Texas, it is important to consult with a Texas auto lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will advise you of the options you may have as well as what remedies you may be able to obtain.
Your attorney can help determine if your vehicle meets the definition of a lemon and help you file a complaint under the Texas Lemon Law. Your attorney can also advise you whether there are any other legal options available to you to obtain compensation.