Texas' Lemon Law: Know your rights when buying a car

HOUSTON – A brand new car is a big purchase. Second to a home, it is likely the most expensive thing you'll buy in your lifetime. It's why we expect it to be problem-free. When it's not, consumers do have some recourse.

"Get what you want," Angie Moreno said, recalling her husband's advice before she bought a 2015 Ford Mustang in October of 2015.
Her dream car came with heated and air conditioned leather seats, a rearview back-up camera and a slew of unexpected problems she documented from day one.

"Everything that's gone wrong with the car shouldn't go wrong with a brand new car," Moreno told consumer expert Amy Davis.

First, there was a leak on the passenger side window that took four visits for the service department to diagnose and repair. Next, the AC in the seats went out. Her rearview camera died. The defogger on her sideview mirror malfunctioned. Then the seat heaters went out. In all, her car made at least eight trips to the dealership for repairs where it sat for days for repairs.

"You know if something's going to be breaking down on a monthly basis or every two weeks, they just need to buy the car back," said Moreno.

Texas' Lemon Law says a manufacturer must either return your money or give you a new car if you have a lemon. A lemon is car that you  have taken for repairs twice for the same problem within the first 12 months or 12,000 miles, and then two more times within the next 12,000 miles or a car that has been out of service for 30 or more days during the first 24,000 miles. If the dealer provides you with a loaner during that time, those days don't count toward the 30 days.

If your car meets the definition of a lemon, you must file a complaint with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to ask for a hearing.

Consumer attorney Dana Karni says proving your case can be tricky.
"If your vehicle has some kind of intermittent problem, where it stalls for instance on the highway, but not every time you get on the highway, then you would need to duplicate that at the hearing and that may be a real problem," Karni explained.

All of Moreno's issues are now fixed, so Karni said the Lemon Law does not apply in her situation.

"As long as the manufacturer ultimately resolves the issue and repairs it under the warranty, then you don't have a claim," Karni said. 

Davis did reach out to Ford to ask if the company can do anything to help Moreno because she has had a lot of problems with her brand new car. Ford sent us the following statement:

"Ford is committed to providing quality products and excellent customer service. Per the latest communication the Ford customer service team has had with Ms. Moreno, it was confirmed that all previous concerns and required repairs had been addressed and there were no current concerns with her vehicle. As an added reassurance, the Ford customer service team offered Ms. Moreno our most comprehensive Premium Care extended service plan at no cost - however, Ms. Moreno declined this offer."

Moreno may have other recourse options under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practice Act; and she is considering filing a suit against Ford.

About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.