The lemon law statue in Texas is part of the administrative code that deals with “Warranty Performance Obligations” (much like the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act).
It dictates that any fully-warranted vehicle with a serious defect must be repaired to acceptable condition within a “reasonable number of attempts” by the manufacturer or dealer.
If this is not possible, the vehicle must be replaced with an identical vehicle or the seller must buy the vehicle back from the purchaser.
Texas Lemon Law Rules for New Cars
Texas’s lemon law is expressly geared toward new (or newer) vehicles with valid manufacturer warranties still attached.
This means it applies to all new vehicles sold at car lots.
Lemon Law Requirements for New Vehicles
The lemon law applies in Texas if:
- Your vehicle is still under the original manufacturer’s warranty.
- The issue you are having with the vehicle is covered by that warranty.
- The issue you are having with the vehicle negatively impacts the operation, safety, or value of the vehicle.
- The vehicle came with the issue. (i.e. You didn’t drive it off the lot and immediately sideswipe a curb, jacking up the running board or suspension.)
If your car meets the definition of a “lemon” in California, the car dealership/manufacturer is required to do one of the following things:
- Repair the car within a reasonable number of attempts
- Repair the car within a reasonable number of days
- Replace the car with a “comparable” vehicle that is acceptable to the buyer
- Buy back the car for a refund (minus a charge for time used)
Repair the car within a reasonable number of attempts
What constitutes a reasonable number of attempts to repair a vehicle in Texas is four (4).
The exception to this is if the issue with the vehicle is a serious safety hazard (which could lead to death or serious injury), in which case the number of repair attempts drops to two (2).
If the dealer/manufacturer cannot repair the vehicle after four attempts (two in the instance of a serious operational/safety issue), it must allow you to return the car for an identical vehicle or refund.
Repair the car within a reasonable number of days
What constitutes a reasonable number of days in Texas is 30.
If a vehicle is in the shop for more than 30 days for the same issue within the lemon law time period, the dealer/manufacturer must allow you to return the car for an identical vehicle or refund.
These days do not have to be consecutive. Instead, they are cumulative. Any time your car is in the shop within the lemon law period for the same issue counts toward your 30 days, even if they are months apart.
The exception to this is if the dealer or manufacturer loans you a comparable vehicle while your car is being repaired. Any day that you are provided a loaner vehicle by the dealer or manufacturer does not count toward your 30 days.
Replace the car with a “substantially identical” vehicle
If the dealer/manufacturer cannot repair the vehicle within the allotted number of attempts or days, they must allow you to return it.
When you return the car, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may order a replacement vehicle.
This replacement vehicle must be “comparable” to the original vehicle. This means the vehicle must be the same make, model, have the same features, etc.
The dealer must also pay any additional taxes and fees associated with the exchange, but may charge you a fee for the time that you did use the vehicle. This fee is calculated by a standard formula.
Even if the DMV orders a replacement vehicle in your case, you don’t have to accept it. The law expressly states that the vehicle replacement must be acceptable to you.
Accept a return of the vehicle for a full refund
If you win your lemon law claim in Texas, the Texas DMV may also order a refund.
Under a refund order, the seller must buy back the vehicle for the original purchase price (including all taxes and fees), minus a fee for the time/mileage you used the vehicle. This fee is calculated by a standard formula.
Texas Lemon Law Rules for Used Cars
Any car still under the original manufacturer’s warranty is subject to Texas’s lemon law. This includes used cars.
If a car is sold while still under its original warranty, that warranty passes to the new owner and the vehicle is subject to the same lemon law requirements as listed above.
That means newer used vehicles with low mileage are typically covered by the state’s lemon law.
What about used cars with no warranty?
If a used car has no warranty in effect, the lemon law doesn’t apply.
The idea behind a lemon law is that it protects consumers from real “lemons,” those vehicles that are nonoperational, unsafe, or damaged right off the manufacturing line.
Used vehicles with no warranty are sold “as is” and it is your responsibility as a consumer to do your due diligence before buying.
This doesn’t mean you don’t have some recourse if you get a bad car. You can always attempt to return the car or report the dealership to authorities. You just won’t find your justice under the lemon law.
Texas Lemon Law Time Limit
The time limit in Texas for filing a lemon law claim is 30 months after the date of purchase. This is 24 months after the date of purchase, plus a 6-month grace period.
This assumes you have not reached the other limits for filing a lemon law claim in the state.
Along with the 24-month (plus 6-month) time frame, you must file a lemon law claim in Texas:
- Within six months of hitting 24,000 miles on the vehicle
- Within six months of the end date of the vehicle’s full warranty
Basically, you must file a lemon law claim in Texas within:
- 24 months
- The warranty period
Whichever comes first, plus a grace period of six months.
How do I file a lemon law claim in Texas?
Before filing a lemon law claim in Texas, you are REQUIRED to contact the manufacturer directly (ideally by certified mail) to try to get the matter resolved.
Lemon law claims start from the moment a dealership and manufacturer FAIL to repair your vehicle to satisfactory condition. (Make sure you get a repair order for each attempt.)
If your car does prove itself to be a lemon, the next step is to submit a complaint to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
The cost to file a lemon law complaint with the Texas DMV is $35 as of 2022.
The DMV provides mediation to try to resolve the issue, and, if unresolved, will schedule a hearing with an examiner.
After the hearing, the examiner will issue a decision, which may be appealed by either the seller or buyer through a second hearing or with the state district court.
General Lemon Law FAQ
To further your understanding of lemon laws, here are some frequently asked questions about how they pertain to vehicles.
What is a lemon law?
A lemon law is a law that protects consumers from defective products or “lemons,” generally by enforcement of a warranty.
What is a lemon car?
“Lemon car” meaning varies slightly from state to state, but, in general, if a new car has a defect the dealer or manufacturer cannot fix, that car is a lemon.
Defects in lemon cars typically affect the operation or safety of a vehicle, but not always. Structural issues that affect that value of a car are also covered.
Is there a federal lemon law?
There is no federal lemon law specifically geared toward vehicles.
However, there is a federal warranty act called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act which protects consumers from false or misleading warranties and makes warranties easier to enforce.
Since cars sold by dealerships typically come with full warranties, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act applies to them.
This act serves as the basis for state-specific lemon laws.
What’s in the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (as it applies to vehicles)?
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act includes several key points that pertain to vehicle warranties. These points are:
- No product is required to have a warranty (and many used cars don’t).
- The terms of a warranty must be fully disclosed in simple, understandable language.
- Any ambiguity in the language of a warranty is held against the warrantor (in this case, the manufacturer or dealer).
- Warrantors cannot require only branded parts be used with their products for a warranty to remain valid (Ford can’t require only Ford parts be used on your vehicle).
- Service contracts must follow these same rules.
Basically, if you feel like you’ve been duped by a warranty, you may have a case under the Magnuson-Moss Act.
And if your vehicle comes with a “full warranty”:
- A dealer/manufacturer must repair any defect for free within a reasonable amount of time/reasonable number of attempts
Or, if the dealer/manufacturer cannot repair the vehicle, they must:
- Replace the vehicle with an exact-match vehicle or allow you to return the vehicle for a full refund (including all taxes and fees)
Does the federal lemon law cover used cars?
If the used cars come with warranties, it does.
The Magnuson-Moss Act is not directed toward products themselves, but the warranties which cover them.
So, if you bought a used car that came with both a defect AND a warranty that covers that defect, the dealer must either repair your vehicle (in a satisfactory manner).
If they fail to do so, you can seek restitution under the Magnuson-Moss Act.
You may be able to come to an agreement with the dealer through arbitration, but, more likely, you will have to take the matter to court.
Does the lemon law apply to leased vehicles?
Yes. In Texas, the lemon law applies to leased vehicles that are new and under a manufacturer’s warranty.
Chucking A Lemon In Texas
When you buy a new car, whether you really need one or are just looking for an upgrade, there’s nothing worse than getting it home only to discover it’s a non-functional dud.
But manufacturers shouldn’t be shipping dud cars to dealerships and dealerships shouldn’t be putting dud cars out on their lots.
That’s the point of lemon laws, to ensure new vehicles driven off of car lots are safe, functional, and free from major defects.
So, if you think you’ve gotten a lemon car in Texas, you shouldn’t accept it and you shouldn’t delay.
You do have recourse, and the sooner you bring the issue to the dealer’s and manufacturer’s attention, the stronger your “lemon” claim will be.