The Law Office of Darin Siefkes Texas Lemon Law

Trailers and Campers

We get lots of calls about travel trailers and campers. These vehicles are covered by the Texas Lemon Law but these are the most difficult cases that we see. This is due to a variety of issues:

The Texas Lemon Law is designed for cars and trucks so it does not account for some of the peculiarities of campers and trailers. The biggest hurdle is the requirement under the Texas Lemon Law that the problem being complained of significantly impairs the value and/or use of the vehicle. It can be very difficult to meet that on campers. For example, let’s say that you are having repeat problems with the refrigerator and the cost to replace the refrigerator is $5,000.00. This sounds significant until you realize that the camper we are talking about probably retails for $80,000.00. That probably does not “significantly” impair the value of the camper as a whole. It also does not “significantly” impair the use since the camper is drivable, you can sleep in it and use it for its intended use – just not refrigerate food. Though the use is reduced, it is probably not significant enough to warrant a repurchase.

Multiple small issues do not create lemon repurchases. Most campers and trailers we see have repair invoices that look like small books – there are literally 30 or so repairs on every invoice. Many times a majority of the problems are repaired while new problems keep popping up during multiple visits to the repair facility. Unfortunately, the Texas Lemon Law requires that we look at each problem in isolation. This typically means that only major, repeat issues – like slides, engine failures and such – will be significant and repeat enough to qualify under the Texas Lemon Law.

Many manufacturers have illegal terms in their warranties. The Texas Lemon Law does not allow provisions in a warranty that prevents a consumer from exercising their rights under the Texas Lemon Law. Per the statute, any provision that violates that is void as against public policy. However, many manufacturers will put provisions in their warranty that says any claim must be brought in another state – typically Ohio or Indiana. More than once, our cases have been delayed significantly while the manufacturer argued that Texas courts have no authority over them due to the warranty. We have a great history of winning those arguments but they take time – time where you are making monthly payments and dealing with a problem camper.

Many people violate the express warranty terms of campers and trailers. Most campers and trailers say in the warranty book that they cannot be used as a home. However, around a third of the vehicles we review are being lived in as a home. Though we have not seen this as a reason to completely turn down a claim, manufacturers will sometimes argue that the warranty is void if they learn of this situation.

The warranty for campers and trailers are typically much shorter than the warranty for cars. A typical warranty for a trailer is 1 year from the date of purchase. When you consider that the average vehicle has a 3-year basic warranty, this is significant and shortens the time to get repairs.

Shorter warranties make the time to bring a claim to be shorter. The Texas Lemon Law has strange rules to determine how long you have to make a claim. Most causes of action in Texas allow you to bring the claim up to 2 or 4 years after you have the ability to sue – this commonly referred to as the statute of limitations. The lemon law’s statute of limitation is only 6-months long but it does not begin to run until one of 3 things occurs: 1) the vehicle is 2 years old, 2) the vehicle hits 24,000 miles; or 3) the vehicle runs out of warranty. If the trailer has a 1-year warranty, the complaint must be filed no later than 18 months after you purchased the vehicle. Also, the presumption that the vehicle is a lemon must be created prior to that warranty expiring. That is a tall order in most cases.

Warranty repairs take forever for trailers and campers. A typical car warranty repairs takes a few days to a week since dealership repair enough vehicles to have most parts on hand. Occasionally a part is back ordered or takes a little time to be special ordered but car repairs that take longer than a couple of weeks are the exception, not the rule. The opposite is true for trailers and campers – most repairs take a least a month or even longer. This is because the repair facility must diagnose the problem, order the parts, get the parts and then attempt the repair. If we are talking about a significant repair, the camper may need to be sent to the factory for repairs. Couple in scheduling difficulties and any delay by the consumer and the warranty is easily expired before 4 repairs can be completed. However, the 30 days out of service exception applies to trailers much more often than cars.

Camper manufacturers are much smaller companies than car/truck manufacturers and fight harder. If Chrysler has to repurchase a $40,000.00 vehicle, it hardly will register a blip on the corporate balance sheet. If a camper manufacturer has to buy back a $100,000.00, it can impact their profits for the quarter. Most camper companies are privately owned, which means that the owner is probably making the decision on whether to repurchase (during negotiations), and that money is coming out of the owner’s pocket.

Overall, disputes that involve campers and trailers are much more difficult to resolve. We do accept those cases, but we are very selective on which ones we take due to the above factors.