Lemon Law in Texas
Like virtually every other state, Texas has a consumer protection law, or "Lemon Law," designed to protect car buyers from chronically malfunctioning new vehicles. While it won't turn a sour car into a sweet one, it does offer financial protections for the consumer.
In a nutshell, the Texas Lemon Law (like that in most other states) says that if you bought a new car that has serious flaws covered by the warranty that can't be fixed, you are entitled to either a replacement or a refund from the manufacturer. However, it can be tricky to qualify for these benefits. In Texas, these Lemon Law protections are complex and don't kick in right away, so keep very good records of any problems you experience after purchasing or leasing a new car.
A vehicle is defined as a lemon in Texas by a few different standards. These include:
- The overall number of repair attempts for the same defect.
- Whether the defect has led to the vehicle going out of service for a significant period.
- Whether the defect creates a serious safety hazard.
4 Times Test
Usually, you will have to prove that there were 4 attempts to fix a problem in the space of 2 years:
- 2 attempts within the first 12 months or 12,000 miles
- 2 attempts more after the second failed attempt during the next 12 months or 12,000 miles
30 Day Test
Your vehicle may also qualify as a lemon if:
- It has been
out of service for a cumulative total of 30 days or more during the first 2 years or 24,000 miles.
- There was a minimum of 2 attempts to repair in the first 12 months (or
12,000 miles) yet the
problem is unresolved.
- The dealer did not provide a loaner vehicle during the time your car was out of service.
Serious Safety Hazard Test
A serious safety hazard is a defect in your car that both threatens your life and drastically impedes the ability to operate your vehicle in a normal manner, or substantially increases the risk of a vehicle fire or explosion.
Your vehicle qualifies under the Serious Safety Hazard Test if:
- You took your car in for service 1 time during first 12 months or 12,000 miles.
- 1 additional time during the 12 months or 12,000 miles following the primary repair attempt.
- The problem is still unresolved.
Timing is important in Lemon Law cases. You must file within 6 months of the earliest of these conditions:
- Expiration of the warranty.
- 2 years from delivery date.
- 24,000 miles clocked from when it was first delivered.
After these time limits, the Texas Lemon Law no longer applies, even if the problems began well before the above timeline points. You may still be able to get recourse from the manufacturer, but the State of Texas is out of the picture as far as the Lemon Law goes.
When you have a lemon, your manufacturer should either replace your vehicle or refund its value. In order to get your situation resolved, you'll likely need to file a complaint. Keep in mind that the manufacturer may refuse to comply even after they receive the complaint.
In this case, it can be a good idea to hire an attorney. They can help you get a positive outcome and can also help you avoid doing anything to damage your own case. The best part is that if you prevail, you'll probably be able to recover your attorney fees from the manufacturer.
The simplest way to file a Texas Lemon Law claim with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is to fill out the official Lemon Law Complaint form (Form ENF-140). There is a $35 fee to file a complaint. Among other things, the form asks for the following information―you can see why it's so important to keep diligent records:
- Type of warranty coverage.
- Name and address of the dealer or other person you bought or leased the vehicle from. Include the name and address of the current lessor, if there is one.
- Date of delivery of the vehicle to the original owner.
- Vehicle mileage when you bought or leased it, mileage when problems were first reported, the name of the dealer or manufacturer's agent you first reported the problems to, and the car's current mileage.
- List of existing problems including their history, repair attempts, and the date and mileage of each repair. Provide copies of repair orders if you can.
- Date on which you notified the manufacturer in writing of your complaint (see below), and the date the manufacturer inspected the vehicle (if they did) and the results.
The claims process requires you to send a certified letter to the manufacturer of your vehicle letting them know you are having problems and expect resolution. You may refer to this
sample letter as an example, and be sure to include all the details cited in this example.
Once the manufacturer receives your notification, they might inspect your vehicle and―perhaps―resolve the problem. You don't have to send this letter before submitting the Lemon Law Complaint Form (Form ENF-140), but it helps.
NOTE: If you just want repairs, rather than a refund or replacement, you don't have to include the $35 fee with the complaint form―and you will send your claim to a different address (noted on the last page of the form). But if you want a replacement or repurchase by the manufacturer, you must include the $35 fee. If you're not sure yet what you want, you may as well send the fee in case you decide later to go for a refund or replacement.
Finally, the TxDMV will contact the manufacturer and mediate a resolution. If you're still not happy with the outcome, a Lemon Law attorney could help you escalate your claim to the courts.