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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. 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
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.
Timing is important in Lemon Law cases. You must file within 6 months of the earliest of these three 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.
That's the slogan of a new program launched by the State of Texas to make sure all its citizens are aware of their rights. The state's Lemon Law Information page includes information on the Lemon Law in both English and Spanish, as well as videos and radio spots.
It also offers a useful Consumer Handbook detailing the Lemon Law procedures, including a section about why there are so many requirements and why it is so hard for manufacturers to deal with Lemon Law complaints. What's the answer?
Well, cars are hard to make right in the first place, and expensive to fix, so manufacturers would rather not fix or replace them if they don't have to. While the car companies seem to be suffering under this burden, it may not be surprising that Texas Lemon Law lawyers seem to be thriving.
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 attemps, 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.
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- Lemon Law Complaint Form (Form ENF-140)
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