Shafted by Used Car Dealer

Old 04-30-06, 09:48 PM
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Angry Shafted by Used Car Dealer

I was hoping that someone here could steer me in the right direction… I was shafted by a shady licensed NJ used car dealer who advertised a total write-off as flawless in an advertisement. Do I have any rights?

Here is the long version:

1. I saw an advertisement by a car dealer on a “popular auction website”.
2. The dealer’s listing represented that "this truck runs and drives flawlessly" among other things, "the body and the paint are in good condition". They further stated in the advertisement that and that the truck was "totally reliable".
3. I “won” the auction and prepared a bank check for $4,300.
4. Over the phone they reassured me the truck was in perfect condition although they had just noticed a hole in the windshield and they offered me $200 to accept the truck with a broken windshield.
5.a. I went into the dealer. Before looking at the car, they “processed my paperwork, meaning they took my license and bank check for $4,300. I signed an as-is contract.

5.b. After they took my check they took me to see the car. I immediately noticed bald tires and outer body rust thru. They pressured me that winning my bid at the “popular auction website” was a verbal contract, and I already owned the truck and I was obligated to complete the transaction. I know *stupid* but a colleague dropped me in Trenton with out having any alternate plan to get home and they already took my paperwork. -- I figured I had some way to give the car back if it didn’t check out.
6. I noticed the truck drove poorly, right away, and brought it into my mechanic as soon as I arrived home – 50 miles away. I should have tried cancelling the bank check immediately, but was afraid of being charged with passing bad checks. WRONG!
7. A local seasoned mechanic took a look at the truck and said that the truck looked like it was parked in a lake. It was completely rusted underneath. He stopped counting damages around $4,000 as a total write-off. Leaking gas tank, rusted brake lines, rusted thru exhaust, etc.
8. I emailed the dealer that I needed to return the truck for my money back.
9. The dealer responded the next day saying my mechanic was a crook. They promised to “fix” any safety issues uncovered in a state inspection (which they are required to fix by state law), although they stated they would not fix the bald tires ‘cause “I should have known better”
10. I took it to a “popular national muffler specialist” who confirmed the truck was a write-off.
11. My next email asking for my money back was not answered. I contacted the NJ department of consumer affairs who basically said they would look into it in several months, and couldn’t guarantee anything. If I pursued mediation thru the “popular auction website” my feeling was that they would be biased toward their customer the used car dealer plus it would cost $100 for a mediator, plus good luck trying to get them to comply with the ruling of their mediator.
12. A lawyer friend responded to the dealer with what is technically called an “FU” letter. Stating we would take civil action against them if we weren’t able to return the car to them.
13. They contacted my lawyer saying it’s my fault for signing an as-is contract in NJ.
14. My lawyer friend says I should pursue them in the special civil court. He said it is no big deal, and I should win because of their material misrepresentations, but my sense is that the dealer has been thru this before and still lies in their online advertisements. If I do win in court I would be entitled to 3x damages- although I don’t see how I would have much in damages, except to my marriage since my wife wants to kill me for getting ripped off so badly.

I don’t know where else to turn at this point. What would you do? I’ve had this truck for 2 weeks now that I cannot use because it is unsafe, and I don’t have the title (the dealer still does) or any inspection sticker. Given the extent of the rust under this truck I don’t think it will ever be safe. In addition, given that this truck has over 100K miles it doesn’t qualify under the NJ lemon law.

If I do go to court, should I go alone, with my friend – who’s going to probably charge about $2K, or with someone else? If I do go with someone else how do I identify lawyers who have won fair advertising lawsuits in the past in NJ?

Half a dozen other ppl within the past month have also entered feedback that this vendor lies about the condition of their vehicles. Should I try to get others “taken” by the same dealer into a class action?
Old 05-01-06, 09:27 AM
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Forgive me if this hurts, but there's no getting around the facts.

Well, let's not *****foot around the bottom line - you screwed up big time. Sorry if that's a little too blunt, but the diy forums are educational as well as informational and this should serve as a teaching moment for others.

Here's my layman's take: I would be very surprised if you could win in court. You signed an as-is contract and handed over a check. That means that you were accepting the vehicle in whatever condition it was in, the dealers representations notwithstanding. But keep in mind that the dealers defence, with the on-line auction and in court, is going to be, "Well, he signed for it as-is".

Your best bet may in fact be with the on-line auction. If it's the one that everyone will be assuming you're talking about, it's my understanding that they are quite good at policing the scumbags who are doing fraudulent business. They depend on people having positive experiences in buying through their auction.

In the mean time, I would be sure to have it parked in a highly visible location with big signs stuck to the sides saying "This FLAWLESS car was sold by XYZ Auto Sales", or whatever other message you can come up with to advertise their lack of honesty & integrity.

My $.02 worth.
Old 05-01-06, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by the_tow_guy layman's take...You signed an as-is contract and handed over a check. That means that you were accepting the vehicle in whatever condition it was in....
I'm also a layman, but one who deals in contracts all the time
I'd have to agree with the_tow_guy on this one
The contract was signed
To bad it was before seeing the vehicle
I'm sure they planned it that way and in fact are scumbags
But the fact remains, the vehicle was accepted as is

It's my personal POV that with the signed agreement the advantage is to the car dealer

It may not have been "fair advertising", but the fact that it wasn't should have been painfully obvious before the contract was signed

I know of no type of lemon law or truth in advertising law that would protect you in a case like this
Perhaps someone more familiar with NJ laws can say different

*When purchasing a vehicle in a state that has a safety inspection, I always have a "contingent upon passing state safety inspection" clause in the contract
It has bailed me out before

Originally Posted by the_tow_guy
Your best bet may in fact be with the on-line auction.
I would agree on that one also
IMO they could be more apt to understand the situation, and perhaps give you an edge
Their reputation is at stake here too

They are bound by company policy, which can be more open to interpretation, or more sympathetic to consumers than state laws can be
Old 05-17-06, 06:16 PM
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yeah, I agree with TG and Slick, your best off trying through the auction site, perhaps a few write ups by a couple of different mechanics, and some pictures would be useful when presenting your side to the "popular auction website"

Thats why i wont buy a car without kicking the tires first.
You may just have to write this one off as a learning expense.
Old 05-18-06, 03:52 AM
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might also suggest that in some states it is the sellers responsibility that the vehicle can pass a safety inspection prior to selling it unless it is sold as salvage, and if the tires are very bald they will probably be one of several reasons for it failing a safety inspection you might want to find out if it applies to your state laws and can even set up an appointment for it to be inspected by whomever is in control of motor vehicle inspections in your state it may be the highway patrol department like it is here. they will give it a thorough safety inspection that you may not get at any shop.
Old 05-19-06, 01:24 PM
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Thumbs up

Thanks to everyone who read thru & responded to my original message. Special thanks to those who were gentle in reminding me how stupid I was.

Apologies for another long message! But this one goes out to all the other ppl that have been shafted by unscrupulous used car dealers! The lesson learned here is:
Originally Posted by danroonie-sage-advice
1. No matter what a used dealer says DON’T BUY A CAR WITHOUT A PROFESSIONAL INSPECTION. Walk if the seller lied – forget anything else they say. If they tell you the tires are good, and they aren’t, walk etc. I did get my money back but I did waste a lot of time effort and money.

2. If you get shafted it helps to have a friend that is an attorney!

3. If we all stood up for our rights, maybe the cheaters wouldn’t cheat as much; and maybe used car dealers wouldn’t have the rep they do!

4. When using popular auction websites, even if you “win” walk away if the item is not as described! I know it sounds obvious, but if the seller lied, YOU are not the one breaking your agreement if you walk.

5. When buying things thru popular auction websites, look very closely at the seller’s reputation, even if the seller has a high percent feedback. Neutral feedback doesn’t count against the seller, also be cautious of “mutually withdrawn” feedback- that means there was a fight. Even positive feedback like: “I guess it all worked out in the end” means that there was a fight. Many times there was a settlement, or the buyer was intimidated into giving positive or no feedback.
Here is the happy (ok not happy but at least vindicated) recap. Right after my post, we sent another letter to the owner of the car company. My lawyer friend and I followed up with a phone call to the owner we convinced them we were ready to go to court, and we were– the dealer ultimately agreed to tow the truck back and return ALL my money. Today their check cleared. After they offered to take the truck back, the salesman called my lawyer friend wanting to make it contingent on giving them POSITIVE feedback!!! At least those sleazebags are consistent! I agreed not to slander them publicly which is common in legal settlements. – I learned my lessons- I got a neighbor’s comparable vehicle inspected, and THEN paid him ~25% of what it would have cost me for my last mistake!

As it turns out, it is against the law in most states for sellers (of anything) to lie. The issue wasn’t the AS-IS contract, it was that they made false factual representations about the truck it really helped that it was in writing. False ads are illegal. Luckily the actual transaction took place in New Jersey not in cyberspace, so the law applied.

To make life easier for anyone in my boat here is a copy of the FU letter with the specific details blanked out! Disclaimer: seek legal advise for your particular situation, I am not an attorney!

Originally Posted by good-lawyer

_________ has requested our assistance concerning your purported sale to him of a ________ (Vehicle ID No. _____). Your company advertised the truck for sale on ____. Your company made material factual representations in the ____ advertisement regarding the condition of the truck. Among other things, your _____ advertisement stated, "the body and the paint are in good condition". You further stated in the advertisement that "this truck runs and drives flawlessly" and that the truck was "totally reliable".

_____ was the high bidder for the truck. He appeared at your establishment and presented you with his check for ____. You refused to allow _____ the opportunity to inspect the ____. However, at no time did you disclose to _____ that the representations you made in your ____ advertisement were inaccurate. You took his check and delivered the keys to him but did not issue him a Certificate of Title.

___ immediately experienced problems with the truck. He took the truck to two separate reputable garages for inspection. Each of the mechanics has confirmed that the truck is rife with a litany of material defects that render it unsafe for basic operation. Among other findings, the truck has a leaking gas tank, rotted brake lines, rotted shocks, possible transmission leaks, and numerous other problems.

Accordingly, your representations to ____ regarding the truck's reliability and "flawless" character were materially false. Further, the defects were detected by ____ mechanics with little diagnostic effort and may of the defects were immediately detected by ____ once he operated the vehicle. Therefore, you were, or reasonably should have been aware, of the falsity of your representations at the time you made them in your ____ advertisement. ___ relied upon your representations to his detriment. He has incurred, and continues to incur, significant cost and expense in connection with this transaction.

___ has repeatedly demanded the opportunity to return the vehicle and obtain a refund of his ___. You have refused to honor ____ demands. ___ has repeatedly indicated his refusal to accept title from you. However, you continue to refuse to return ____ money.

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that ____ is prepared to institute suit against you for claims including breach of contract, common law fraud, deceptive trade practices, and for breach of the provisions of the (STATE) Consumer Fraud Act. _____ is prepared to recover his full measure of damages, which now well exceed his original payment. Further _____ is entitled to treble damages, attorneys' fees and costs, and other punitive relief under applicable statutory law.

PLEASE TAKE FURTHER NOTICE that the only way to avoid having suit filed against you is to immediately forward to ____ the sum of $_______________. Once ____ receives the payment, he will arrange for you to reacquire the truck.

PLEASE TAKE FURTHER NOTICE that ____ will proceed in accordance with this letter unless payment is received by _______________.
Old 05-20-06, 05:45 PM
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Nice "out", Dan.
Old 05-25-06, 12:19 PM
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Great recovery guy. Nothing makes my day than seeing a used car dealer get his just desserts.

IMO - All used car dealers are liars and thieves. It's just a matter of degree. It is the most dishonest profession in the world and I'm including pimps, lawyers and drug dealers.

Your experience reinforces my opinion and is a great contribution to this forum. Thanks a bunch for having the guts to post something that was probably very embarrassing to you. Hopefully readers here will benefit.
Old 06-27-06, 06:43 AM
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I went to a public auto thinking I would find a deal, but I was able to atleast walk up to the cars, no popped hoods, or open doors, even from looking under cars you can tell quite a bit. All the cars I looked at were pretty much junk and needed atleast a few thousand in parts. Later I find out about this law suit

And then was glad that I was educated enough to see the cars were junk in the first place. This law suit is basically the same thing, misrepresentation of words used to describe the cars. And unless there is something written in that contract about the car being junk and sold to you for parts, you have a good case.

Generally speaking if the auto auction is public the cars missed the crusher in the junkyard and made it to the auction.

So ya you still have a fighting chance, and as for contracts: If contracts couldn't be broken lawyers would be out of many jobs. Also a lawyer is not the final interpretation of a contract they are just professionals at making contracts. The judge or jury is the final say as to what is implied in the contract.

I have also inspected many used cars and I can always find atleast a couple of grand worth of stuff to complain about to have fixed or taken off the price of the car. I have had quite a few so called florida driven old person cars the dealer said, which had apparent marks on the frame from being straightened after a wreck.

For the most part on these so called factory recertified cars I usually still find quite a few things that should be replaced but nothing major so far just little things like struts.

Last edited by hotrodder89; 06-27-06 at 06:59 AM.

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