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Vehicle Purchase


This article discusses buying a vehicle in Texas and your rights and responsibilities when doing so.

Buying a vehicle in Texas is not simple. Here, learn about your legal rights, responsibilities, and procedures when purchasing a car in Texas. The article includes information about warranties, vehicle title searches, auto insurance, financing, canceling a purchase, and the Texas Lemon Law.

How do I know if a vehicle is sold with a warranty?

The dealer must post warranty information on the car window. If there’s a written warranty, it must describe in detail what parts and services are covered and for how long. The terms of the written warranty control over any “as is” warranty disclaimer. If the vehicle is sold “as is” you still have legal rights.

If the seller knew the vehicle was damaged at the time of sale but didn’t disclose it to you to induce the sale, you may have a legal claim under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA)—even if the car was sold “as is.” Send a certified letter to the seller listing the damage or defects and ask for a repair or refund. If there is no response in 60 days, you can file a DTPA lawsuit against the seller in Justice Court.

Can I search the vehicle title and other information about the car before I buy?

You do a title search on the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) website. You can also order a specific vehicle’s history from the TxDMV database, showing whether the vehicle has been salvaged or flood-damaged. The database covers all 50 states. You’ll need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to do the search. The fee for the search depends on which vendor you select from the TxDMV website.

Do I need auto insurance to buy a car?

Yes. You must have auto insurance to purchase from a dealer, but you are not required to buy insurance from them. You can shop around for your insurance. You must also have proof of insurance to register the car in your name.

I have bad credit. Do I have to finance it through the dealer?

No. Regardless of your credit, you are not required to finance the car through the dealer. You are entitled to arrange your financing separately. You are also not required to buy credit insurance from the dealer. If you do, it must be disclosed in the Retail Installment Contract.

Do I have the right to cancel my car purchase within 72 hours (3 days)?

No. There is no grace period or cancellation period after signing the purchase contract. Once you’ve signed it, you’ve made the purchase.

How do I know if the seller still has a claim on my vehicle?

The seller must have a signed security agreement and note the lien on the title. Keeping the original title or failing to transfer it to you after the sale does not mean the seller retains a security interest. If you buy a car from a private party, never walk away from the sale without the title.

How is the title transferred?

A dealer is required to register and title the vehicle in your name within 20 working days of purchase. If you purchased the vehicle from an individual seller (private sale), the title should be transferred to you at the time of the sale. Have the seller sign, date, and enter the odometer reading on the back of the title. You’ll also need the seller to sign and write the vehicle sales price on your Application for Texas Title form 130-U, available from the TxDMV website or your county tax assessor’s office. You only have 30 days to submit a title transfer, or you will pay penalties. It’s a good idea to have the seller go with you to the tax assessor’s office so that you can make sure that there are no legal or salvage issues with the vehicle before you buy it.

What is the Texas Lemon Law?

The Lemon Law is a consumer law that protects buyers of new vehicles still under warranty by enforcing the warranty with the manufacturer. Under the law, the TxDMV can make the manufacturer buy back or replace your problem vehicle, but it won’t help you collect money damages or recover attorney’s fees. The Lemon Law has different requirements depending on whether the defect presents a “serious safety hazard” or not. To see if the Lemon Law covers your problem vehicle, call the TxDMV at 888-368-4689. For more information, see the DMV'sTexas Lemon Law page, which includes an online complaint form.

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