Used lemon bought from owner-small claims?
Posted 21 August 2012 - 11:18 AM
In June of this year I bought a used car (year 2003) with cash from a private owner, I paid more than kelly blue book price although the registration was over-due. When I asked about the car needing smog(California) the owner had told me it most likely wouldn't need to be smogged, and if it did it would pass. I agreed to pay the late registration fees and the owner agreed to help me if the car needed repairs in the future. We made a bill of sale that stated the car sold "as-is". My boyfriend came with me to pick up the car and it seems to be in good condition and i was in desparate need for a car.
Turns out the car did need smog, so i took it in and it failed the emissions test due to "no check engine light" and a bad catalytic converter. I immediately called the previous owner and he agreed to help me fix it, turns out he is a private mechanic. After two pointless trips to his dumpy mechanic shop with him not showing up as agreed, I finally met up with him at his shop on the third trip. He first took apart the dash and found a piece of electrical tape covering the check engine light and took that off. He wanted to replace my Cat with a part from another car, but turns out the ones he had wouldn't fit my car and he said the one i already had was in good condition, so instead he just took off my part, blew some dust out of it, and put it back on. He told me that if the check engine light came on after that to call him and he would find a good part to fix it.
Of course the light came on. I called him and he said he would fix it but he needed to find a part, I told him he had to find a new part that was made for the car because I was frankly irritated. He wanted to give me his friend's car to drive in the mean time and I said no, I am already insured under this vehicle and I was recenlty in an accident. I said if it didn't get fixed this time I would need to have him buy back the car. He said he'd call back, and it has been a month since our last conversation. I called him daily and left voicemails for the first couple weeks, and called a few more times since, so he obviously is ignoring me.
I have been quoted by a couple mechanics that the part would cost $1,000 to replace at least and it may not even fix the problem. I have paid the registration fees, but I can't get the tags or the title until the car passes smog, and I have already exhausted my 60 days mover permit sticker. The car also has a faulty battery, it has a hard time starting and there has been one incident where it wouldn't start at all. I spoke to the dmv and in the vehicle code it implies that no seller shall offer or sell a car knowing it won't pass smog which would void any as-is contracts, and considering this guy does mechanic work I'm assuming he knew what would happen, for all I know he was the one who put the tape over the check engine light. Do I have a case in court to get a refund or at least repairs and paid fees covered by him? If not what are my options because I cannot afford this car. Thanks!
Posted 21 August 2012 - 01:22 PM
When I asked about the car needing smog(California) the owner had told me it most likely wouldn't need to be smogged, and if it did it would pass.
You can confirm this with the DMV, but my understanding is that any private party sale requires a smog check upon transfer. Of course, unless the seller was a dealer (in addition to being a mechanic), he'd have no more reason to know this than you would. As for the seller's assertion that the car would pass, query how he was competent to know this (maybe, as a mechanic, he would actually have a basis to know this).
Do I have a case in court to get a refund or at least repairs and paid fees covered by him?
You've learned a valuable lesson here. Never buy a used car without having an independent mechanic check it out first. Normally, used car sales are on an "as is" basis (unless the buyer gets an express warranty, which never or almost never happens with a private party transaction). However, because the guy is a mechanic, you may have a viable case based on his assertion that the car would pass a smog check if required. You didn't say how much you paid, but small claims court is simple and inexpensive.
Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:19 AM
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