Bought a used lemon. Now what?
December 17, 2013 7:10 AM   Subscribe

How can I end the suffering of having purchased a terrible used car under duress?

About four months ago, in desperate need of a car, I purchased a 2007 Mini Cooper from DriveTime. My credit is terrible right now post-divorce, and I was in a pinch. I've already learned the lesson of sub-prime lending and even more sub-prime customer service.

The Mini Cooper, mechanically sound as the mechanic said it was, blew up in a tunnel and stranded me and my family until help could arrive. The following Monday, I had the whole mess dragged back to the dealership where we were told we could "roll back" the deal and get into something else on the lot. However, if I didn't buy a car from them that day I'd lose my deposit. Furthermore, I wouldn't be allowed to take anything off the lot for more than a test drive. No 24 hour test drives or going to mechanics.

I was unable too walk away, and didn't feel like I could afford to lose my very sizable deposit. So, I chose a car I had owned before which served me well—a 2005 Subaru Outback. It's miles were high but it test drove well, had a good Carfax report. As you can predict, it's a little more than 90 days later and it's falling apart. If I complete the *next* round of repairs, this car will have needed:

- AC compressor (done in first round)
- Wheel bearings (done in first round)
- Power steering pump
- Half axles left and right
- EGR sensor, as the cruise control no longer works

I bought one of those warranties because I *had* to. They would not sell me a car without it. It allows me to make small co-pays for many repairs. Wouldn't you know it, they find a way to deny almost every claim I make. They also make me pay for a rental car for any time it's in the shop and not being actively worked on. Waiting for parts? I get to pay for the rental those days.

I want out. This sucks. This isn't the kind of sucks where the radio doesn't work and the guy said it did. This car is barely drivable. I can see down this road, and it's constant repairs. DriveTime refuses to take it back. Even if I pay it off completely, they still won't even take it as a trade for a calendar year. Help? Any ideas? I'm in Virginia if that helps anyone.

I fully realize my mistake(s), but being in this kind of a bind makes one do dumb things. My financial situation is still as such that I can't afford lawsuits, etc. If there really is no remedy, I can take it; but if there is, I must be missing it. Thanks any and all for your help.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd send a complaint letter to the Better Business Bureau.
posted by hazel79 at 7:30 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's really not enough information here to give you specific advice. What does your purchase and sale agreement say? Were the cars sold to you "as is" (which generally means you take them in the condition they're in, buyer beware, and you have no recourse against the seller for any problems).

There's the standard advice about contacting your state attorney general's office but that almost certainly wouldn't get you out of an agreement that you signed, short of some smoking gun showing willful fraud on the part of the seller ... and even then, it wouldn't be fast.

Also -- you can contact a consumer protection attorney in your state who will know more about the applicable laws; but then again, with bad credit and modest means, you might have trouble finding an attorney to work with you.
posted by jayder at 7:32 AM on December 17, 2013

OK, what does your contract with these people say, do you know? Like, if you paid it off, could you sell the car to someone else or trade it in somewhere else? Could you afford a better car if you were able to do that? How much longer do you have on your contract?

I'm not a lawyer, but I think you might just be kind of screwed here. Look at your purchase and sale agreement. Figure out the fastest way to get out of your agreement with these people. Don't try to trade in or do anything that will extend your relationship with them. Figure out how to get out as quickly as you can afford to.
posted by mskyle at 7:37 AM on December 17, 2013

You can always trade it at another dealer and get into a different car.

Cars don't have to be in good mechanical order to be traded. You may owe a shit ton of money on the hooptie, but you can get out, and into something better elsewhere.

Most dealers will work with you if you have bad credit, and may roll any "upside-down" into your new note.

You may be able to sue Drive-Time in small claims court for coersion and fraud, for the difference between what you owe on the car and trade value.

Or you can take the Outback to a dealer, find out exactly what's wrong with it, and fix it and drive the car for years to come.

In the future:

1. NEVER buy any used car without having YOUR mechanic certify that it is in good working order. If you had a mechanic certify the Mini-Cooper, then you could have taken it to him to have it repaired.

2. Never buy anything anywhere where they are twisting your arm to add waranties or other things you don't want to buy or finance.

3. Never agree to any sales contract that you don't fully understand.

Sub-Prime lending is a horrible, horrible trap. You aren't the first person whose desepration has lead them into it, but you have to mitigage your losses here and get out.

Have you gone to your Credit Union to discuss refinancing your loan? What are the terms of your loan? Is there a pre-payment penalty?

Another option is to stop making payments on the Outback, save up for another car, buy that other car, and let Drive-Time take back the old car.

You would only be liable for the difference between what they re-sell the Outback for and what you owed on it. Yes, it's another hit on your credit, but at this point, who cares? They can whistle down a well for it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:46 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can always trade it at another dealer and get into a different car.

How would OP do this when OP is still paying this dealer? Are you assuming any other car dealership would pay off the note? This dealer has the title to this car until it's paid off, I'm pretty sure.

Note to OP -- I just read some Rip-Off Reports and Yelp reviews about the car dealer you're complaining about, and it's clear they scour the Internet for their name and they use this info in dealing with the customer. (In one instance they had found the customer's blog entry and used that as the basis for a threat against the customer!)

So maybe ask the mods to remove the dealership's name?
posted by jayder at 7:55 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

(I'm suggesting removing the company name because you'd lose leverage if you are tipping the company off about whatever you plan to do. If they know what you're planning, you're just helping them prepare.)
posted by jayder at 7:57 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

The car is what the car is. It was right in front of you when you bought it, and the fact that you were in a hurry and don't know anything about cars is your problem and not the dealership's problem. I'm not trying to be unsympathetic - I know this sucks. Still, caveat emptor.

You can try letters and such to the attorney general or BBB, but honestly.... It's not likely to work. JB Byrider, Drivetime and all that have a finely tuned ripoff scheme.

You'll have to look at your sales agreement to see what you can do to trade in the car or sell to a private party. I think, though I am not sure, that you are basically stuck with the car until you pay it off the note, though.

A side note - I'd get a second opinion on that list of work that needs done. You can probably put it off a while. Also, find a different mechanic - half axles are about 80 bucks, and the labor isn't that hard. Any craigslist shadetree machanic could do it for you. EGR/knock sensors are also pretty easy. Subarus have a large enthusiast community online with tons of information.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:13 AM on December 17, 2013

Mod note: Folks, OP does not need a lecture on what to do next time. Please just answer this question. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:16 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hey! Your car sounds like my old subaru. The details are slightly different (our credit was good, so I'm not sure how much of this would play in your situation), but basically, we traded it to a dealership for a lease on a brand new car. They paid the entire outstanding loan on the car, despite its back door not working, broken AC, broken power windows, needed new brakes, new left axle, and a bunch of other shit. The car was a disaster, but they paid it off entirely.

Leasing isn't a 'financially smart' move to some people, but if you're looking for security and a reliable vehicle without having to think about it? Its amazing. Everyone in our families thought we were insane for leasing, but it's been a dream. I've never felt less stress over owning a car. We don't have to worry about repairs for the next couple years as we get more financially stable and it just works really well for us.

You don't need that car to be paid off before you sell it or trade it in, you just need to find someone to buy it, and if that party is a dealership, they'll handle all the paperwork of actually getting the title. They do it all the time, and its cheap for them.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:26 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

OK, let's take a step back, try to remove the (understandable) emotion from the situation, and see what can be done with this car.

First step: have you taken the Subie to an independent Subaru mechanic, or are the repairs you've listed ones that the car dealer's mechanic is saying need to be done?

If you've not gone to an independent Subie specialist, that should be your next step. To find one, you could start with the Car Talk website -- there's a section there where people recommend mechanics. You want a second opinion, and a fresh set of estimates, from someone outside the sick-system of the dealer+their mechanic+your warranty.

I don't think you need to fully despair here. It may be that the Subaru can be brought up to good running order, and stay that way, without you having to go through the dealership money-suck. And some of the repairs might be ones that can wait a bit, so you can budget for them.

I would have as little to do with the dealership as possible at this point, including not using the pseudo-warranty for repairs at their shop.

Hang in there. You got a rough deal, but you can come out of this OK.
posted by nacho fries at 8:28 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've had awesome luck perusing forums. Find a good Subaru forum, search for one issue at a time and you'll find 254 people that had the exact problem and a lot of advice. If nothing else, knowledge is power. It's a lot more effective to call 3 shops and ask for a specific quote (ie how much for a valve cover gasket) than it is to call one and say 'help I'm leaking oil" (or whatever the case is)
posted by ian1977 at 8:38 AM on December 17, 2013

Based on the dealership name you gave, it looks like you might be in the L.A. area. If so, I'd like to give you the name of a super-honest, inexpensive, humane mechanic who specializes in Subarus. He's in the Hawthorne area. If your car can be made whole without breaking the bank, he is the man to do it. He can help you figure out lower-cost solutions wherever possible, but he doesn't put in crap parts or skimp on labor to get the job done right. Chris at Raffi Motors. The reviews don't lie.
posted by nacho fries at 8:39 AM on December 17, 2013

OP says they are in Virginia.
posted by jayder at 8:45 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

2nding taking to a mechanic and getting a second opinion. However, those are the kinda things that, were I short of money, I would just live with until they totally break. They aren't going to break other things[1] when they go (unlike a timing belt), so the only additional cost of waiting to repair is a possible tow, but in your condition you should spring for towing insurance anyway ASAP.

Carry power steering fluid and keep it filled up until you can afford to fix.

Also, those things wear out. If the car isn't burning quarts of oil per 1000 miles and having random electrical problems, it might not be that bad.

(Also, for next time, a "sizable deposit" could buy a much older Toyota Corolla and make you much happier.)

[1] though I'd double-check with a mechanic
posted by flimflam at 12:24 PM on December 17, 2013

If this happened to me where I live, I'd be ringing consumer protection.

I think the Attorney General's department is the equivalent in your area. I would definitely ring the hotline and tell them the whole story. They might advise you to lodge a complaint. This can work wonders, especially if the merchant has had other complaints against them before (and if this is how they treat their customers, you can bet they would have).

There also is something called the "Lemon Law" . I do not know whether it applies in your specific circumstances but it's definitely worth reading the page and the links. That page also says that you can get a quick consult with a lawyer for $35.

Good luck!
posted by pianissimo at 6:47 PM on December 17, 2013

« Older Someone is intentionally attacking me & my...   |   The time for cunning plans and crazy capers. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.