- Location: Texas
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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 four failed attempts to fix a problem in the space of two years before the car will be considered a lemon.
Timing is important in Lemon Law cases. You must file within six months of the earliest of these three conditions:
- Expiration of the warranty
- 24 months from purchase
- 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. You might want to turn down the volume on your speakers―this page plays a theme song.
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.
After listening to the music and watching the humorous videos on the Lemon Law Information page, you're probably ready for more serious material. Various aspects of the Lemon Law are included in parts of both the Occupations Code and the Transportation Code, with the Texas Motor Vehicle Board weighing in with a few more comments.
While the Texas Lemon Law gives good protection to consumers, the onus is on the vehicle owner to prove the car qualifies as a lemon under the law. This isn't always easy to prove, so it's critical to keep records and document every trip to the mechanic once the car starts having problems.
For your car to qualify as a lemon, you need to prove one of the following:
- The same problem or nonconformity continues after four or more repair attempts.
- The problems presents a safety hazard, and you made two repair attempts within the 12 months or 12,000 miles following the date of original delivery and another two attempts in the following 12,000 miles or 12 months.
- The car must be out of service for at least 30 days in the first two years it is owned. But if the mechanic or dealer provides you with a comparable car during the time yours is being repaired, those days aren't counted (thus the courtesy actually makes it harder for you to file under the Lemon Law).
To sum it up, the Lemon Law is unlikely to cover cosmetic problems or problems that don't seriously affect the operation of the vehicle. Problems with the radio probably would not qualify; heating or air-conditioning issues might fall under the Lemon Law; brakes or valves almost definitely would.
But don't despair―there is some relief possible even for nonsafety issues if they affect the value of the car.
The simplest way to file a Texas Lemon Law claim with the Texas Department of Transportation is to fill out the official Lemon Law Complaint Form. 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 to the Department of Transportation, 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 Texas Lemon Law 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 Department of Transportation 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.
Dealer Complaint Forms can be used to file a general complaint against a car dealer; these can be made anonymously.
Consumer Complaint Forms can be used to register other types of complaints.Organ Donation Survey
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