By on July 17, 2015

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Several times in the last few weeks I have had a friend come up to me and tell me that they bought a used car, there is some problem with it, and now they want to sue the dealer. And if not a lawsuit, then at least they want some sort of compensation, like a free replacement car.

I generally listen intently to their problem, and confirm that I’m understanding it, and make eye contact to show that I care, and then tell them something along the lines of the fact that this is the single stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life.

Here’s a newsflash for everyone out there who bought a used car with a problem: You bought your vehicle in as-is condition. This means you must accept it “as it is,” even if how it “is” is fitted with brake pads that are actually USB sticks. Even if its mirrors are sun visor mirrors taped on the mirror housings. Even if it is a Pontiac G6. You now own this car and you signed the papers saying so. The dealership held up its part of the obligation in selling you the car. Now you must hold up your part of the obligation in getting the thing the hell off the dealer’s lot.

When people come to me and ask me about buying a used car, I almost always tell them to get a mechanical inspection before they give the dealer any money. “Get a mechanical inspection,” I always say. “For God’s sake, get a mechanical inspection.” When pressed for more advice, it’s usually along the lines of, “If you don’t get a mechanical inspection, then you have the IQ of dishwashing soap.”

A few months later, they come back to me and tell me that the dealer didn’t want them to get a mechanical inspection, so they bought the car anyway, and now they discovered that the transmission only powers the front left tire and the windshield wipers are actually felt-tip pens tied to the wiper arms with rubber bands. It is at this moment when I ask them never to speak to me again.

No, what I really tell them is they’re screwed. Not sort of screwed; not kind of screwed. They’re totally, completely, 100-percent screwed. They own the car, it’s now theirs, and if they come to the dealer with their problem, the dealer is going to laugh in their face and tell them to please leave, because they are busy selling a car made entirely of sandpaper to another person who didn’t get a mechanical inspection.

This doesn’t seem fair. After all, doesn’t the dealer have an obligation to sell a quality product to everyone? In my mind, the answer is no.

Cars are complicated and dealerships are possibly even more complicated. When a car is bought by a dealership or traded in, the idealistic customer probably thinks it’s inspected top to bottom for mechanical issues, fixed perfectly, then placed on the lot at the lowest possible dollar amount required to make a profit. If a disabled veteran comes in, they give him the car for free.

In reality, the dealer has no time to inspect every single used car that comes in on trade or from an auction. Instead, the dealer just cleans the thing, sticks it on its front line, and hopes you buy it. They have no idea what’s wrong with it. They don’t care what’s wrong with it. If you want to know what’s wrong with it, you have to figure that out for yourself.

And that’s why smart shoppers get a mechanical inspection. It takes a while and it’s a pain in the ass, since you have to take the car from the dealer to a mechanic, wait while it’s being inspected, then drive back to the dealer to retrieve your own car — but it’s necessary. Once, when I took a car for a mechanical inspection, the service advisor walked up to me at the end of the inspection. “Anything serious?” I asked. “Nothing ten grand can’t fix,” he replied.

Ten grand.

So in my opinion, buying a used car is a risky proposition — and if you take the risk, you have to be prepared to face the consequences. Am I wrong? Do you think a dealer has an obligation to fix its used cars, or buy them back if they’re awful? And what about a private seller? Let me know your thoughts below.

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67 Comments on “QOTD: Can You Blame the Dealer For Your Defect?...”


  • avatar
    Jimal

    Apparently you are not familiar with the concept of reviews and online reputation.. Nothing gets a dealer that cares about such things to bend over backwards when they are undergo obligation to do so like someone trashing them online. To the point that the review outlet is disproportionately powerful for the consumer, who may or may not have a legitimate issue, but feels aggrieved or disrespected. Forget the lawyer, just write a long, negative review and post it everywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      Disagree. There was a time and a place for that but that time has passed for the most part. People I see ranting, posting, tweeting about stuff like this appear mentally unstable.

      Especially when they have their hand out for free fixes on cars when out of warranty.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        You’re looking at it from the perspective of someone posting on in the comments section of an automotive blog. The average consumer who is at most engaged on a casual level doesn’t think about the reality of someone fishing for free out-of-warranty repairs. They see the one-star rating, read how the dealer stole or cheated or lied, and move on. Read any article on here about dealerships doing something untoward, read the replies, then reconsider your statement.

        The default position of most is that stealerships are just that, stealerships. Earned or not, few people discount the rants of the mentally unstable as rants of the mentally unstable when it comes to dealing with car dealerships.

        • 0 avatar
          sunridge place

          You are talking about legit, but rare things like a dumba$$ service guy taking a car on a joy ride and getting busted. Those things can explode.

          The average consumer (right or wrong) is lost in a sea of people b!tchng on the Internet. Those days are done for the most part.

          A few industries still kind of matter…like hotels and sellers/buyers on eBay to name two. Car dealerships don’t unless something goes viral. Someone b!tching about a car sold ‘as is’ that breaks down won’t cut through the clutter on millions of people b!tchingfor handouts.

          Among my favorites to watch people stroke out is air travel.

          ‘Dear Delta,

          My 12pm flight from Atlanta to Dallas was cancelled and I missed my daughter’s wedding that evening. I didn’t get ANY compensation due to YOUR failure. I missed this special moment and I will NEVER fly your airline again and ALL MY FRIENDS will see this and NEVER fly you again either.’

          Nobody will ignore Delta based on that. They will continue to book travel based on either:

          1. Their frequent flyer account if they travel enough
          2. Lowest fare for their trip

          I want to tell the guy that, if his daughter’s wedding was that important, perhaps he should have planned better. Perhaps, he will not book Delta. Then, he will realize he lives in Atlanta and see what avoiding Delta will mean for his future trips.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Hmmmmmm..let’s see..Hot-Lanta to Dallas in the summer time…

            …most pilots won’t fly through thunderstorms. Storms=delays @ big hub airport.

            Shoulda taken the first flight of the day, huh??!!

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      Dealers pay lip service to caring about online reputation etc, but in reality the sales manager and salesman want to sell the car – right this second – and if a buyer wants it, it’s gone.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        What does this have to do with this article? A dealer and a buyer making a deal is how a vehicle is sold; online reputation has nothing to do with that. Where online reputation enters into the equation is when someone who has no knowledge of a brand or dealership researches one or the other online and sees complaints. In that case, you’ll simply never see the buyer.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I worked in a new car dealership for 7 years. All trade ins and auction cars went through the shop and received a semi-thorough mechanical inspection. We had a used car mechanic who got paid based on what work he could talk the sales manager into, so he was usually pretty thorough with the inspection. Typically the sales manager crossed off the list anything that wasn’t a true safety hazard – the the brakes would get done if needed, that one bad tire, usually the wipers would get done, and oil change. What wouldn’t get done sometimes were shocks, timing belts, interior light bulbs, air filters, radiator flushes etc, etc. Many times customers would come back with a complaint about something the sales manager had crossed off the list, and the dealership would end up doing it. At least where I worked, the state required a certain length mechanical warranty based not he selling price and mileage of the car. After that, the customers were truly on their own.

    My advice is the same as the writer’s – ALWAYS GET A MECHANICAL INSPECTION, no matter how honest you think the dealer is. If they won’t let you do that, that is a HUGE red flag. Don’t buy there.

    • 0 avatar

      I work at a new dealership now and this is pretty spot on. Used car prices are pretty crazy anyhow. If a true complete repair was done, the car wouldn’t be marketable. Customers want used to save money, expecting perfection in the process is a bit silly. Def get the mechanical inspection. Major stuff is a reason to walk away from a car, minor stuff should be considered as “live with” or part of the negotiation. Nothing is free, and anything fixed comes out there bottom line. Most dealerships will be flexible with you, but don’t expect a big covered shop bill and steep discounts. There is always the next guy who comes along with an IQ lower than dish soap.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        When I’ve offered cars for sale, I’ve fully-disclosed everything — minor things needing attention (burned-out CHMSL), plus any previous body damage (with deductions for them), along with a suggestion to take the car for an inspection, and I’d come to an understanding on additional things. (Also disclosed miles to timing-belt service, etc.)

  • avatar

    Car dealers are a tougher target than most defendants. They assume they will be sued occasionally. The insurance they buy also covers attorneys, so their legal fees are effectively pre paid, but as there is a deductible, the dealer still won’t want to pay. It is a worst case for the plaintff, who will have to pay out of pocket for the attorney, and will have to go to trial to have any hope of recovery.

    Over my career, I’ve given back to dealers $28k contract/12k value cars, sued for bad repairs, and for warranty. Dealers routinely lie and lose paperwork. The only comparison I can make is it is like suing the insurance company that covers taxi drivers in NYC. They know every trick, and a voluntary settlement is just not done, regardless of facts.

    One day, a co worker sends his car to a dealer for routine work. They take it out for pizza at lunch, and wreck it. The dealer tries to strongarm co worker into signing off “to let them fix it”. Eventually gets a total, but has to fight for it.

    Saab dealer fixes a transmission…or doesn’t. At deposition, the mechanic who went for a ride with the victim claims he was a dangerous driver, could not drive a stick, and kept stalling the car. I know the plaintiff, none of this was true. The mechanic went so far as to say he was in fear of his life (or at least his continued employment).

    Best example. Nice young couple buy secondhand Volvo. Buy extended warranty. 80k, belt snaps, interference head, boom ! My state has a short warranty, which dealer ignored, and said to go warranty co. Warranty co disclaimed, but after an attorney’s letter with exhibits, sends check to buyers, directly, with 1/3 missing (their net attorney’s fee), as a “good faith settlement”, not an admission of liability. The next stop was the local court (and this is why small claims don’t pace with inflation…the insurers/car dealers don’t want YOU to have easy access so the amount recoverable is kept below most car type situations). Luckily, the Judge, who read the contract, found that while only “internally lubricated parts” were covered, the failure of a belt then causing damage to internally lubricated parts was covered.

    We got a Judgement, which the used car dealer then paid. The dealer’s name ? Ernest Wolf. I swear I didn’t make that up.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Expect any car to cost you money.. if you want to save on depreciation expect the above. If not suffer depreciation or buy a transit pass or bicycle.

  • avatar

    Tried to edit, but fail:

    Watch the description in CPO or extended warranty. “Internally lubricated parts” pretty much means that if it does not swim in an oil bath, it isn’t covered. That includes wires, solenoids, etc, or the whole electronic mosh around most engines. That includes pollution controls, for those of us who have to live in fear of the “check engine” light at inspection.
    I like the BMW CPO warranty, it is a masterwork of the type. It isn’t much of a warranty (not to be confused with the extended new car warranty)

    Caveat Emptor…..

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Lincoln’s CPO warranty is basically just an extension of the factory warranty (Ford PremiumCare ESP). It covers everything that isn’t a wear item or some rubber items.

      • 0 avatar

        Although depending on which one some Ford CPO have a deductible and some dont. It’s an added cost (to vehicle cost). Otherwise Ford CPO is pretty solid. Fine print matters, take your time in the office and understand what you’re buying, and what you are not.

  • avatar
    PeterKK

    Yeah if you buy something as is, why would you blame someone else for you not knowing how it is? It’s your job to discern what state it is in. That’s what as-is means!

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed 100%, but lots of folks are led to believe there is coverage, warraty, or “we stand behind our product”. If you buy from someone’s driveway, you are on your own, but if you buy from an established dealer, new or used, and the “warranty” or “CPO” is part of the sales pitch, it isn’t the same.

      Depreciation is the markets’ commentary on the real value of the car, once it leaves the new car warranty-or as my mom told me years ago….”buy new if you can…a used car is just someone else’s problems”.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        Most dealers where I’m from offer a 30-day warranty, as in we’re not going to sell you a complete crap-bucket that falls apart as soon as you drive it off the lot.

        But otherwise? yeah, buyer beware, get a PPI. If it breaks, you’re SOL, pay the repair guy.

  • avatar
    rdodger

    We tell customers all the time to get a mechanical inspection. They can take it down the street and for $50 they can get it checked out. Once that is done they have the option to buy or not. We also have paperwork stating that the vehicle is a non warrantied vehicle and the customer must sign it. ‘As Is’ means ‘As Is’. However, from time to time there are extenuating circumstances that we will help out. People don’t always trade in their 10 year old car just because they want a new one. 9 times out of 10 there is probably something going on with it that is draining their wallets. Unfortunately, with a car that old you aren’t going to get a warranty with it and the dealer won’t fix everything that’s wrong with it, outside of safety issues. If we fixed everything we would end up charging more for the car than the fair market value.

  • avatar
    7402

    You own the car, it’s your problem.

    This is why I always buy used cars from private sellers: the dealer cars cost much more and the warranty is effectively the same!

    The trick, of course, is to commit the necessary time to the process and to have your money and mechanic lined up in advance. Say I want to buy a 5-year-old Honda Civic (possible scenario for my daughter who is in college). I call a couple of conveniently located independent mechanics who specialize in Hondas (OK, it could be a dealer). I’m sensible enough to not call early in the morning or late in the afternoon when they are busy–I might even just stop by instead. Chat with not just the service adviser, but also a mechanic/technician.

    Find the target car, tell the seller you are serious, can complete the transaction, and will take the car for an inspection after test driving it. If the seller is nervous about letting you take the car for several hours, let them come with you, leave your car with them (sans keys), give them a deposit (get a signed receipt) or whatever. Apart from getting a chance to inspect the car, you effectively take it out of circulation for competing buyers. Where I live we have required safety and emissions inspections. Pay the shop to do these. If it fails here in VA they will place a very obvious pink FAIL sticker on the windshield. If you want the car, use the inspection to negotiate the sales price of the car.

    I always figure a used car that is out of the manufacturer’s warranty will require between $500-$1,500 in work, tires, etc. in the first year.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I wish more people would ask for pre-purchase inspections on my cars because I generally keep my stuff in excellent mechanical shape. Not to blow my own horn, but I think I did a great job on my SSEi and it will probably last another 200K but no one cared when I was selling it. They just saw ‘202k miles’ and ‘GM’ and shot off some lowball offers.

    Only two people have requested inspections (on my Lucerne and my Diplomat both came back flawless and got me full asking price).

  • avatar
    Sky_Render

    This is why I laugh in the face of people who tell me that buying a new car is “such a bad investment.” Whatever. At least I have a warranty and the entire maintenance history.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    You’re right, and you’re not.

    Yes, cars are sold “as is.” Yes, you should have mechanical inspections prior to buying a car. Yes, the process of buying a used car is largely a matter of caveat emptor (buyer beware.) Yes, one should be more careful.

    On the other hand, the doctrine of caveat venditor (seller beware) also now plays a part in modern theories of buyer-seller relationships, which can sometimes help. (As a buyer, it would be naive to rely completely upon that for protection, but it may not hurt to try to get what you can from it.) And there are extra-legal ways to respond that might pressure the dealer to act.

    If I bought a car from a dealer and had a problem that the dealer refused to accommodate, you can bet that I would go to resources such as Yelp. If it was corporate owned, then I would be going to the very top of the company. (There are tactics for handling large corporations that give you problems.) Your friend should have done more to protect himself, but now that he’s bought the problem, it wouldn’t be smart for him to just lie down and take it, either.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    A number of loss ends. What of ‘certified pre-owned’ vehicles sold by dealerships?

    And in Ontario ‘as is’ means not road worthy and not plateable. To be plated it must pass a safety check (certification) and emissions test.

  • avatar

    “In reality, the dealer has no time to inspect every single used car that comes in on trade or from an auction. Instead, the dealer just cleans the thing, sticks it on its front line, and hopes you buy it. They have no idea what’s wrong with it. They don’t care what’s wrong with it. If you want to know what’s wrong with it, you have to figure that out for yourself.”

    Well…

    Depends on the dealer. We start by typically only sourcing cars from reputable auction sources (bank repos, lease turn-ins, franchise dealer trades versus independents and wholesalers) and usually with a full condition report or – if bought w/out one – a sale-day PSI. I will buy a completely as-is car only if I drove it beforehand at the sale or its so back of any book I don’t care and can afford to fix whatever may be wrong.

    We drive everything we have as well. Granted, this is easier with a 35-unit lot, but I switch out almost daily. I make note of any issues and take care of them depending on severity as needed. We offer a short-term warranty for major problems on anything over $2500 and – even if its as-is – I’ll fix things after the sale as long as the customer is reasonable about it.

    I do, however, 100% stand by the ‘get an inspection’ proverb. To me, its not a matter of protecting yourself as I will say that our cars are 99% roadworthy and safe, but a matter of ensuring that YOU as a customer are satisfied with the state of the vehicle.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    According to Manheim, franchised car dealers sold 15.6 million used cars in 2013. I don’t have the time to research how many were sold at independent lots, but for funzees let’s assume the same, then add another 5 million for private sale, which would be low I think.

    35 million (ish) used car sales in 2013. Not hard to believe that one or two were total piles.

    If you buy a car from an independent dealer who while you are there you can see no evidence of a shop you probably expect to buy a car that has zero reconditioning, or just slightly above zero. They ha to outsource the work, that costs money.

    At a franchise store, the shop is another business with its own P&L. Their best customer is the used car department. They look at every car and try to fix every little wrong with it..it is the used car managers job to reign them in.

    I am of the belief that if you can’t discern the difference between a good used car and a roach, WITHOUT a mechanical inspection you should be over at the new car dealer buying a new car, that is new. I have never had a used car inspection done and have yet to buy a pile. I have had to my wife’s frustration at times well north of 25 of these units in 17 years.

    Disclaimer…I have never owned a used Porsche. If I were to buy one I would have it reviewed as I am, probably too much so, fearful of what kind of daemons that could be hiding inside that I would have no clue how to repair. They can’t all be bad, there is enough of them in the road. We have our foibles though.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The one used Porsche (’87 924S, only 60K on it) I bought I DID have a PPI done on. And it STILL turned out to be the most epic money pit I have ever owned. And that was with my having done my research going in so I thought I knew what I was getting into. And a Porsche that was 30% cheap old VW Rabbit bits. And it was nothing particularly awful, just standard 20yo low mileage car stuff. But the Porsche Tax is NO JOKE!

      Otherwise, I just do the research, and buy privately carefully when I buy used. And I have had MUCH better luck buying cars privately than from dealers.

  • avatar
    markf

    ” Even if it is a Pontiac G6.” Awesome line…..

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      It kills me that model is so hated when the first Epsilon Malibu was the same thing, but uglier and somehow escapes scorn. Heck Suzuki was still selling vehicles at the same time and not a word about the craptastic Aerio.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        That Malibu was ugly, but it was a Chevy so people had low/no expectations for it. The G6 was on the longer wheelbase, wore it poorly, and was also stripped of any styling detail. The Aura was pretty much the same car, but at least looked halfway decent.

        • 0 avatar
          markf

          Cause everyone knows the Malibu only served the purpose of filling rental car lots. The G6 basically did the same thing but GM kept billing Pontiac as “performance” The G6 was an ’87 Grand Am without all the plastic cladding……

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “GM kept billing Pontiac as “performance” The G6 was an ’87 Grand Am without all the plastic cladding”

            I agree with this but even so called performance brands have generic volume offerings. Dodge is the most recent example, the Dart is not a performance car, nor is Journey, Durango, or the Caravan. I realize the brand is still in transition but they still will have entries in Dart and whatever replaces the Journey, neither of which are performance segments. GM’s distribution network at the time allowed for BPG dealers to essentially move Chevrolet product along with more unique offerings (GTO, G8, Solstice). I agree that for a long time Pontiac was just Chevrolet for BPG dealers but they did attempt to correct it in the last twelve years of the brand or thereabouts.

          • 0 avatar
            Kevin Kluttz

            The G6 was an Epsilon, not an N-body.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The first Epsilon Malibu didn’t pretend to be anything it wasn’t. And, at least at retail prices (ha ha), it was significantly cheaper.

        The G6 tried to look like a sporty car but was an Epsilon Malibu underneath. Thus the derision.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Most of GM’s models were each other underneath with increasing content and evolving engine options in most cases. Many of commented that KIA today is trying to be the “sporty” brand of H/K, yet the models are all Hyundais through and through. People need to get over themselves.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            There’s platform sharing and then there’s platform sharing.

            Doing it right: GM with the XTS and Impala. Many greasy bits in common but each car has its own distinct personality and feel, and you can see the differences that make the XTS worth more cash.

            Doing it wrong: Also GM, with almost any set of platform-mates they built in the ’80s or ’90s.

            The G6 and Malibu are somewhere in the middle. The G6 had legitimately different and better styling but that’s all it had. Engines were the same and suspensions were almost the same. Interior was just as low-rent. Same with a lot of the H/K twins.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I disagree with you there dal.

            The current XTS and Impala are no more different than the Allante/Trofeo/Riv/Reatta or the Grand Prix/Intrigue/Century or Park Avenue/Deville of years past.

            Camaro/G8 or 370Z/QX70 are what I think of when doing platform sharing “right”.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            ajla, I think if you drive an XTS Vsport back-to-back with an Impala you will get pretty different impressions. The XTS Vsport feels like a Lexus ES350 on steroids. It’s obviously FWD-based but still has real luxury, between the quiet/quick engine and the excellent interior materials and design. The Impala is much more of a normal family sedan, although a good one.

  • avatar
    skor

    Variations on a theme:

    My neighbor sold his used car himself on the inter-tubes….something I advise people against…selling your own car that is. Anyway, there was a lot of derp, but I’ll get to the meat of it. Dude was looking to buy a car for his teen daughter. Buyer asked my neighbor if he could have the car ‘for a few days’ to see if he liked it. My neighbor politely declined. The buyer asked if he could have the car overnight to take to his mechanic, to have it checked out. My neighbor countered with an offer to take the car to the putative mechanic. The buyer told my neighbor to drive the car to a residence in a dodgy neighborhood in the evening so his ‘mechanic’ could have a look at it. My neighbor declined. After some more derp, the buyer bought the car ‘As Is’. A couple weeks later the harassment started, and my neighbor was forced to file a police complaint. Eventually the buyer filed a small claims lawsuit where he claimed that my neighbor refused to allow him to have the car inspected. The judge threw it out. The buyer walked out of court cursing and yelling threats at my neighbor.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      I’ve sold my fair share of used up daily drivers in the $1500-$5000 range – all on Craigslist. I insist on all cash or cashier’s checks, and both parties sign a form stating release from all liabilities relating to the vehicle. Keeps everyone fairly honest.

      I had a guy one time track down my address and knock on my door, but that was only because I forgot to sign the title transfer form.

      • 0 avatar
        hotdog453

        That right there is the main reason I loathe selling cars myself. I don’t want any connection to the buyer. I don’t want them emailing me or calling me or showing up at my house with some bizzare question or issue.

        I’d rather take a bath on a car than deal with random Internet freaks in real life.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      You’ll get a real moron from time to time when selling used cars to be sure. They think that because you can just return stuff at Wal-Mart where they buy everything else they own, they should be able to do it with you.

      I had a guy come from 3 hours away to buy a car from me, then call me a few days later saying I sold him an unsafe car and he wanted be to refund him $1000 to have the brake lines replaced. Apparently his mechanic wouldn’t pass the inspection without doing the lines. They weren’t leaking, you could stand on the pedal and the car stopped fine. But because the lines appeared rusty on a 22 year old car, they apparently had to be replaced. Dude blew up my phone with threats, calling me a criminal etc. etc. Blocked him and forgot about it. $1000 to replace brake lines that have no issues. Yeah, I’m the criminal.

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        Let me guess … was it a GM product?

        Hmm, on second thought, their issues with undercar line rust protection seemed to start in the mid-90s, which wouldn’t match up with the 22 years. Curious now.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    I’ve purchased a few used cars and getting a PPI is sound advice. You can use any items found as points in the price negotiation. As such the PPI will likely pay for itself and then some.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    In general, yes, almost all used cars are technically sold As-Is.

    That said, if the dealer makes promises about how all their cars undergo a eleventy-billion point inspection, and the consumer finds out during the first oil change that the radiator has about 30 minutes of life left, an expensive oil leak, cracked CV boots, and brake lines about to explode, you can hardly blame the consumer for being furious.

    • 0 avatar
      pbr

      I’m wondering what the story is here … yes, dealers make promises. They lie, even. People do not follow good advice and want to blame others when things go wrong. Isn’t this just Human Relations 101 stuff?

      The profit numbers are on the dealers’ side, or they wouldn’t be in the used-car business. They bake in some margin to pay the lawyers, buy back some cars, do post-sale repairs and even lose some lawsuits, but again, isn’t these basic, broadly understood concepts?

      The article and anecdotes are entertaining, though, keep going …

      • 0 avatar
        mechaman

        I’d say, if the dealer puts on PAPER that he did such-and-such, then buyer has a case if it turns out that wasn’t true. That being said, I never saw a dealer put anything on paper that could bite them later!

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    PPIs are worth their weight in gold. When looking for my last DD I happened on a REALLY nice ’04 Avalon that had a near-showroom interior and <60K on the clock. It ran and drove great. I did notice some fisheye in the paint in the left side A pillar, but overall the car looked very nice.

    Took it to Fremont Toyota (Yes, it's a plug) and 150 bucks later their paint and body man came out and showed me in exact detail how the car had been hit, and hit hard enough to change the body cage so the doors on the left side no longer had correct panel gaps. He estimated the entire area below the A-pillar moved back about 1/8", and there was other damage under the hood that reflected a large impact.

    Took it back to the seller, who was a Tier 2 dealer, and even he was shocked that the car got by him. No skin off his nose, he bought the car from State Farm, who had an agreement that they would take back any car with no penalty if he could not sell it.

    Best 150 bucks I ever spent.

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      Whenever looking at a used unibody car, check the rocker panel pinch welds for clamp marks from a frame straightening machine. Inspect all difficult to mask areas for evidence of paint (glass mouldings, door handles) or overspray (panel gaps).

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    Buyers wind up on used car lots because of the financing, as much as anything. I am a cash buyer, and have been buying older Volvos for under $2000…they are plentiful around here. I assume that they will all need a timing belt and transmission drain and fill as soon as I take it home, unless there is good documentation, so I factor that into my costs. I don’t mind bad tires, because they will show any weird wear patterns the car may have, AND I get to put four fresh tires of my choosing on the car…nothing like fresh tires to make a car drive nicely. As long as it isn’t rusty, we are good to go.
    Car dealers are right up there with personal injury attorneys and pimps on my list of people I try to avoid…

    • 0 avatar
      55_wrench

      “Buyers wind up on used car lots because of the financing”
      Not always.
      I had cash to pay up front. Just so happens I was working in an area with several lots nearby to choose from.

      Funny thing about this deal was that Carfax didn’t pick up the accident on the Avalon..but that’s old news.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’m thinking about this right now because I’m actively looking for a used car (2007-2009 LS460) that’s expensive to fix. I’m just assuming as part of the budget that I’ll have to replace brake pads, belts, hoses, and likely some suspension components (upper control arm bushings are a notorious weak spot on these cars). I can’t imagine holding the dealer responsible for an issue with a seven- or eight-year-old car unless they actively tried to hide a problem.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    It would also probably go a lot easier if you have a particular make/model in mind.

    Then you find a local independant mechanic that specializes in the brand you want to buy. Check Yelp reviews, and ask if they would be willing to do an inspection if you bring the car in.

    I would hope it would be under $100 and involve checking fluid condition, leaks, code scan, tire wear, collision repair and hopefully a simple compression check and coolant pressure test.

    Your local independant specialist is going to know what in particular to look for and would have no reason to be biased since youd hopefully be returning as a customer.

  • avatar
    SamTheGeek

    The sad thing is, this article isn’t correct. Despite a dealer (or a private seller) selling a car “as-is” it doesn’t release them from all liability. If a dealer sells a *car* then it must operate as such – if there’s a condition that exists at the time of sale that prevents it from working as a car (meaning turns on, drives, can be registered, etc.) then there is NO WAY for a dealer to disclaim liability. In fact, you can blame a dealer for the defect – so long as it existed when you bought the car.

    Tl;dr. A dealer can’t sell you a car then later claim that they only sold you a potato.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @SamtheGeek

      Laws vary widely and wildly by state. In some states, you are right. But good luck proving it in court.

      In my state of Maine, if a car is being sold by a dealer, it both MUST have had a state inspection within the past 60 days, and there is a required warranty of inspectability. So if you buy a car, bring it home, and find that the brakes are bad, assuming they should not have passed inspection the dealer is on the hook to fix it. Exception is if the car is sold with an “Unsafe Motor Vehicle” certificate, in which case you have to tow it away, fix it, and get it inspected yourself.

      However, for a private sale, as-is means AS-IS. You have NO recourse to a private party seller for much of anything. You can try, but you will almost certainly lose in court. Again, varies wildly by state. My understanding is that in Massachusetts their lemon law at least somewhat applies to private sales too, for example. There is also a warranty of inspectability requirement for private sellers in MA – not in Maine though!

  • avatar

    Dealers are under no obligation to provide a warranty, that is why the little sticker says “As Is”. There may be some dealers that are more helpful than others but then again the used car world is full of snakes too. If you rely upon the good will and professionalism of a used car dealer to protect yourself, you are in for a bad day.

    For dealers-
    https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/dealers-guide-used-car-rule

    For consumers-
    http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0055-buying-used-car

    That “as Is” sticker… read it- it is full of LoLz.
    http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0083-buyers-guide.pdf

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    “They have no idea what’s wrong with it. They don’t care what’s wrong with it.”

    According to the independent mechanic I have been patronizing for over thirty years, that’s true for CPO vehicles, too. All CPO buys you is warranty coverage. If you bring to their attention a problem they should have found and fixed before putting the car up for sale, they will fix it for you without charge.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    Buying a used car is at your own risk, of course. But when the dealer “sells” you a car using tactics implying the car is in great shape and that it’s been inspected by their service department then you the dealer too have responsibility. Suggesting the consumer is stupid to buy from you is completely unethical and explains why your ass gets sued for false advertising. Dealers too have the responsibility to sell a car they can stand by. That’s how to do good business.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    Have you used P. J. O’Rourke as your writing model? This was the most enjoyable article I have read in a very long while, anywhere!!! All that you state is true, even though I did believe before reading your article that trade-ins were gone over with a coarse-toothed comb, at least. However, I am inclined to believe you, because, well, profit is profit!! Keep up your good prose!!!!!!

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