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How the Texas Lemon Law Works To Protect Consumers

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By Johnny Bevers

If you have a new motor vehicle that seems to forever be in the garage then the Texas Lemon Law could be a very valuable tool for you.  Some cars are lemons, no two ways about it; and these cars can cause no end of heartbreak for their owners, who have to repeatedly take them in and out of the garage.  The Texas Lemon Law provides protection to those people who have inadvertently purchased a lemon.

A Summary Of The Law

The Texas Lemon Law is legislation designed to protect consumers who have bought new cars which then display persistent problems.  We are talking here about cars that you have to continue taking back to the dealership for repairs because the same thing keeps going wrong again and again and again.  If your new car is under warranty, under the Lemon Law you may be entitled to either reimbursement, or a new, replacement car.

How To File A “Lemon Law” Complaint In Texas

Well, it’s really quite simple although filling out the form may take some time.  What you need to do is file a Lemon Law complaint with the TxDMV, The Texas  Department of Motor Vehicles, by filling out this form and sending it and 35 dollars to the address on the form.  You should also send a letter to the manufacturer of your car informing them of what you are doing.  This is required before the next stage of the process can take place and gives the manufacturer the option to resolve the matter immediately.  The next stage of the process is for the Texas DMV to contact the manufacturer of your vehicle and mediate between you and them in an attempt to resolve the issue in a manner agreeable to both parties.  If the issue cannot be resolved in this way then it is time for the third stage in the Lemon Law process.  The case is referred for a hearing where both you and a representative of the manufacturer will have the opportunity to state your cases before a judge.  The judge will then rule on the matter within six weeks.

Am I Eligible For Lemon Law Protection?

To determine whether you are eligible for reimbursement under the Lemon Law, ask yourself these questions.  If the answer is, “yes” to any or all of them, then you would be in a very strong position to seek reimbursement or a replacement car.  Has the manufacturer tried to repair the problem with your car twice in the first year, or 12000 miles, and then twice more in the next year, or 12,000 miles?  If so and the problem still exists then you have a strong case.

Does the car have a condition that represents a serious hazard to the safety of its occupants or other road users that the manufacturer has attempted to repair once in the first year, or 12000 miles, and once more in the next year, or 12000 miles?  If so and the problem persists, then you have a strong case.

If your car has been off the road for 30 days or more in the first two years, or 24000 miles, due to a defect that the manufacturer has attempted to fix twice in the first year, or 24000 miles, and the manufacturer did not give you an alternative vehicle during this time, then you have a strong case.

What To Expect From The Seller After A Complaint Is Filed

Remember the burden of proof is upon you.  So expect the seller to demand proof that any of the conditions mentioned above do / did actually exist.  This is why it is very important to keep any and all documentation relating to your car’s problems.

If you have the fore-sight to take photos and / or videos of any visible problems then this may also help your case, as will witnesses to your car’s problems.

Best And Worst Case Scenarios

The best case scenario is that after you have filed your Lemon Law case, the TxDMV and the manufacturer of your car agree that the manufacturer should accept full responsibility and pay you back the entirety of the cost of the car, including any out of pocket expenses like towing fees and the like.  Alternatively, they may offer you a new car of the same make and model and cover any fees associated with the other car.  If all this happens without a hearing you either have an extremely strong case, or you have been exceedingly lucky.

The worst case scenario is that the case goes to a hearing (this actually isn’t as scary as it may sound – most hearings are surprisingly informal) and you lose.  This is not the end of the world as you are only out the 35 dollars it cost to file the case, but obviously you still have a problem with your car.

Lemon Law For New Cars

While it doesn’t happen very often, new cars occasionally come out of the factory with major defects.  You may be thinking that your new car won’t have any problems since it’s brand new, but every once in a while, automotive manufacturers make small mistakes that create “big” problems.  Years ago, I purchased a brand sport utility vehicle (SUV) that burned one quart of oil every 3,000 miles.  It took some doing, but ultimately I was able to negotiate with the new car dealer to replace the vehicle.

Examples Of People Who Have Filed A Lemon Law Complaint

Here are two, real-life examples…

First, Mr and Mrs Smith, who bought a Pontiac Bonneville from a dealership in Texas:  Shortly after purchasing the car, the Smiths noticed that the windscreen wipers intermittently failed and that this impaired vision when driving.  They returned to the dealership several times to have this looked at but the dealership could not find a problem.  The dealership, in fact, even accused the Smith’s of faking the problem.  The Smiths felt that they had no choice but to initiate the Lemon Law process.  The TxDMV was unable to mediate between the two parties successfully and so the process was taken to a hearing.  At the hearing the judge ruled that GM had to buy back the car from the Smiths in addition to paying the 35 dollar filing fee!  This is an excellent example of a successful Lemon Law complaint.

Secondly, the Jones’, who bought a Chrysler Town & Country:  Almost immediately after purchase they noticed problems such as dashboard lights going out, the seat belts becoming difficult to fasten and so on, but chose to ignore these problems.

Then, after around 30, 000 miles the battery went dead.  They managed to jump-start the car and took it back to the dealership as it was still under warranty. At the dealership, they were informed that tests revealed that there was nothing wrong with the battery.  They recharged the battery and drove off, but the battery continued to fail a further nine times even after it had been replaced with a fresh one.  They decided to file a complaint using the Lemon Law.  Again, as in the Smith’s case, the case went to a hearing.  At the hearing Chrysler offered a MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) swap which meant they were able to get full value for their suspect car and replace it with a newer model. Well done Chrysler.

The Lemon Law is a very useful piece of legislature that gives consumers some way to deal with dealerships that don’t operate in an honest manner, or who simply can’t seem to fix the vehicle!  The fee for filing a Lemon Law case is so low that there is no real reason not to do it if you have a reasonable case.

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