What's the best solution to this car drama that may involve a tampered odometer?
August 2, 2011 10:38 AM   Subscribe

I have a friend that is having some trouble with a car he purchased and he's trying to figure out what could be the best outcome in this situation. Basically, it looks like his odometer may have been tampered with and has been making far more repairs to this car than seems reasonable. He contacted the AG and they're willing to take the case but he's not sure if that's best. I don't have all of the finer details, but the gist of it is inside. He said there were other smaller repairs, but these are the main ones. Also, I'm trying to keep it a little vague just for anonymity's sake, but I can provide details if necessary.

Spring 2009 - Purchased a certified pre-owned mid-2000 year car with ~30K miles for just under $14K - in cash. Was told that everything that was 50% used was replaced.

Summer 2009 - Was told brakes and rotors need to be replaced for $1200. Declined. Month later, dealership says they will do it for ~$450.

Winter 2010 - Brakes need to be repaired again. Turns out the first time they only did the pads and not the rotors. Reviewed the paperwork on the car and it looks like the car mileage was pushed back three different times. Asked about the brakes and the paperwork. They said I agreed to only the brake pads and that the paperwork was a typo.

Winter 2010 - Have own mechanic fix the brakes for ~$600
June 2010 - Windshield wiper motor needs to be replaced for ~$720. Own mechanic says it is rare for this to need to be replaced.

Summer 2010 - Main cooling fan, timing belt, and water pump need to be replaced at ~50K miles. Own mechanic thinks this is strange for this year model and mileage. Show him the paperwork where it looks like the mileage was tampered with, suggests having it looked in to.

Fall 2010 - Contact the Attorney General - they are looking into it.

Winter 2010 - At ~60K miles the catalytic converter needs to be replaced. Own mechanic again does not think this is right for a car with this mileage. Has not been fixed yet - estimated cost of $3K.

After the AG started looking into this, he got a letter that the car company had sent the AG saying that the claim was problematic because the paperwork had VINs for two different vehicles. However, he's not sure where they are getting that from because he doesn't actually see a VIN on the paperwork. Following that letter, the AG sent one to him saying that if the issue was still unresolved they would take his case.

Now, he is wondering if he should take this to the dealership prior to it turning into a case and ask for something (e.g. a better warranty for ANYTHING else that might go wrong). But we have no idea of what is standard/typical/likely in a situation like this. Any advice is much appreciated!
posted by lurking_girl to Law & Government (16 answers total)
 
I don't understand the question? It seems like the AG office would be best able to advise. Why would your friend want to deal with a crummy dealer anymore after all these problems?
posted by quodlibet at 10:45 AM on August 2, 2011


Winter 2010 - Brakes need to be repaired again. Turns out the first time they only did the pads and not the rotors. Reviewed the paperwork on the car and it looks like the car mileage was pushed back three different times.

When you "push back" the mileage on a car, you're committing fraud. It should have stopped here.

Fall 2010 - Contact the Attorney General - they are looking into it.

You mean fall 2011, right? Why did he wait almost a year to contact someone after he found out that they'd lied and deceived him?

he got a letter that the car company had sent the AG saying that the claim was problematic because the paperwork had VINs for two different vehicles. However, he's not sure where they are getting that from because he doesn't actually see a VIN on the paperwork.

This is confusing. The dealer sent a letter to the AG, which the AG then sent to him? If the dealer has two VINs on file for one vehicle, it sounds like they put a car together from chopped parts, but it's hard to tell what that actually means.

If the AG is involved, he should not contact the dealer directly. That's what attorneys are for. He should ask the AG to help him get a vehicle that works and see what they say.

This all sounds very fishy and he should let the AG handle it. Don't talk to the dealership anymore.
posted by clockzero at 10:49 AM on August 2, 2011


Has he run a Carfax on the VIN numbers to check history? He never should have bought a used car without a CarFax in the first place.
posted by COD at 10:52 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think your friend should politely tell the dealership that he wants his money back, including the costs of repairs and will return the car in exchange for not pursuing this as a criminal matter with the AG. Nothing short of full reimbursement, no negotiating is acceptable.
posted by AugustWest at 10:52 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: @quodlibet That's what I think, too. Maybe he's worried about the hassle of the case and how long it might take and needing to still make repairs on the car in the meantime? For example the C.C. needs to be repaired.

@clockzero Yes, sorry, 2011. Also, I feel bad saying this, but he's a bit of a pushover and is really hesitant to ever speak up about problems. Which is unfortunate.
posted by lurking_girl at 10:53 AM on August 2, 2011


The available paperwork suggests odometer tampering. The independent mechanic is finding parts wearing out that typically don't wear out on a car with as low miles as the odometer indicates. Both of these things strongly suggest the AG should look into this; odometer fraud is a big deal.

Beyond that, the noise about brakes and whatnot, ignore that; brakes are a wear item, and it is wholly ordinary and boring that the dealership would want to massively overcharge and suggest replacements for things that may not actually need it. So that becomes a red herring for the potential odometer fraud.

Ultimately, I see some crazy pricing estimates (3K for a cat?) and suggest that as the car apparently isn't under warranty any more, there's no reason to go to the dealership for repairs. I also wonder why a nine-year-old car would be a certified pre-owned vehicle, as typically cars older than four years aren't eligible for such programs, and then there would be a warranty. So something's fishy there as well.

To be more useful, it would be helpful to know:

1. For each identification, was is the dealership or the independent mechanic claiming it is necessary -- and which one made the noted price estimate/charged the noted price for the repair?

2. Was this car purchased from a dealership that sells the same make (that is, was it a Toyota purchased from a Toyota dealer's used car lot?)

3. Does your friend have paperwork from the manufacturer (not the dealership) indicating certified pre-owned status?

4. What happened to the certified pre-owned warranty? How long was it, when did it end, what did it cover?
posted by davejay at 10:55 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


oh and for those reading: a statement like "Was told that everything that was 50% used was replaced" is nonsense. In fact, any statement at all that isn't in writing is also nonsense. salesmen will often say anything at all to make a sale, so if it isn't in writing, assume it is a lie.
posted by davejay at 10:57 AM on August 2, 2011


@clockzero Yes, sorry, 2011. Also, I feel bad saying this, but he's a bit of a pushover and is really hesitant to ever speak up about problems. Which is unfortunate.

Well, listen, here's the thing: these people are fucking him.
posted by clockzero at 10:59 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


In a totally brazen kinda way. He needs to stop being a fucking idiot (I feel bad saying that, too) and stand up for his fourteen thousand dollar investment, his time, and all the other crap that he's had to deal with as a result of someone else's willful deception.
posted by clockzero at 11:00 AM on August 2, 2011


he got a letter that the car company had sent the AG saying that the claim was problematic because the paperwork had VINs for two different vehicles. However, he's not sure where they are getting that from because he doesn't actually see a VIN on the paperwork.

I assume here that what you mean is:

1. Your friend contacted the AG, and provided the paperwork showing the potential fraud.
2. The AG contacted the dealership, and passed along the paperwork.
3. The dealership responded to the AG, claiming the paperwork shows two different VIN numbers, so that explains the appearance of odometer rollback.
4. The AG responded to your friend, passing along the dealer's response.

Please confirm.
posted by davejay at 11:01 AM on August 2, 2011


Response by poster: I've asked for the exact wording of the letter from the manufacturer, that part was confusing to me as well.

To be clear, the car was a mid-2000 (2005, I believe).

1. For each identification, was is the dealership or the independent mechanic claiming it is necessary -- and which one made the noted price estimate/charged the noted price for the repair?

The dealership said brakes/rotors were bad. Dealer fixed the brakes pads - though friend thought they were doing the brakes. Mechanic did the brakes after friend realized dealership hadn't. Everything else it sounds like it went to the dealer (in case it was under warranty) but if it wasn't it was fixed by the mechanic.

2. Was this car purchased from a dealership that sells the same make (that is, was it a Toyota purchased from a Toyota dealer's used car lot?)
Yes.

3. Does your friend have paperwork from the manufacturer (not the dealership) indicating certified pre-owned status?
I believe so, but I haven't seen it.

4. What happened to the certified pre-owned warranty? How long was it, when did it end, what did it cover?
I believe it's the VW 2 years CPO warranty.

Thanks, I know it's harder to be clear when it's not the OP with the problem. Just trying to help my friend.
posted by lurking_girl at 11:15 AM on August 2, 2011


One thing to remember is that while the AG might be willing to pursue a case, they are not your agent and not necessarily your friends even while doing so. We know people around here who cooperated with a (federal) DA in some sort of mortgage scam they were the victims of and were completely hung out to dry as soon as they were no longer useful.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:50 AM on August 2, 2011


Best answer: Okay, thanks for the clarifications, and for correcting me on the age of the car.

So, let me just tell you what I would suggest, if I found a friend in the same circumstance who had asked me to solve this problem for him or her and agreed to do what I told them, because it is nearly impossible to help a pushover who isn't willing to take the required steps.

Get your act together

The goal here is to stop spewing cash and start taking control of things.

1. Effective immediately, stop taking the car to any dealership for non-warranty repairs. Period. Not even for estimates. More than anything else, this is the most important step to take, and is good advice for anyone in any circumstance (provided a quality independent mechanic has been located.)

2. Gather up all the paperwork for the car, in particular the CPO stuff, and call the manufacturer's contact number to determine whether the car is (or was) under a CPO program, and whether the warranty is still in effect. Fill in any paperwork gaps by contacting the VW dealer and the independent mechanic. If the dealer refuses to provide paperwork, contact a different VW dealer that doesn't belong to the same dealer group.

3. Write up a concise, accurate summary of the repairs, repair location and costs to date, and attach to supporting paperwork. If the request to the dealer for paperwork was blocked or produced incomplete/inaccurate paperwork, document this as well.

Provide the AG with the paperwork they need

The goal here is to help the AG pursue this, with the understand that settling this now will prevent this issue from coming up later, when your friend sells the car. Best to do this now, rather than when he tries to sell it later.

1. Make a version of your paperwork that includes only the information required to assist the AG with pursuing an odometer fraud case.

2. Deliver that paperwork to the AG, and assist them as needed. Don't let the issue drop until a determination one way or the other is made -- letting it drop without determination (missing paperwork and such) is bad, because he's going to have to check that box indicating he believes the car's mileage is accurate when he sells it. If this isn't settled, he'll either have to lie and check the box, or tell the truth and lose resale value.

Be smart going forward

Certain makes of car -- VWs among them -- are wonderful cars but maintenance nightmares. Given the type of person he is, a reliable Japanese car would have been a much better choice. What's done is done, so here's what he can do for the future.

1. Join a VW forum and find out if the problems he's had are common ones for VWs of this type and vintage, and find out what other problems might bite him in the ass later. That will help him keep ahead of and budget for potential issues, and figure out just how good his independent mechanic is.

2. Leverage the knowledge and experience of other people when he makes future car purchases. Car purchasing and ownership is fraught with peril, and we need all the help we can get.
posted by davejay at 12:25 PM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


and for what its worth, despite the age of the car, when I read about the issues with the water pump and windshield wiper motor and such, I assumed we were talking about a VW.
posted by davejay at 12:28 PM on August 2, 2011


I retract what I said and direct the OP to davejay's suggestions.
posted by clockzero at 12:29 PM on August 2, 2011


Have your friend (or the mechanic, or you, or all of the above) locate the VIN number on the various parts of the car, and see if any of them come up different. For example, compare the VIN on the engine with the VIN on the windshield with the VIN on the door or fender with the VIN on the paperwork. See if there is a descrepancy between any of them.

If you found different VIN numbers, I'd run a Carfax on each one to see what comes up. Keep copies of EVERYTHING, take pictures of the VIN numbers on the car if necessary, and go back to the AG. I'm wondering if the car had an engine failure and had the engine replaced with a used one or something (slightly possible).

I'd also do everything davejay said. It's time to take control of the situation, and part of that means being prepared with all the evidence and paperwork you can.
posted by MultiFaceted at 1:42 PM on August 2, 2011


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