How can I get a dealership to pay me for a car I sold them?
November 15, 2014 1:43 PM   Subscribe

I sold my car to a Nissan dealership last Monday, November 10 for $22,000. At the time I owed $15,276.47 to Nissan Finance. I checked my account there today and now I owe $15,284.80, so the loan is still not paid off and it's still accumulating interest. Also, it's been five days and I haven't gotten a check for the $6,723.53 remaining after the loan payoff.

When I was in there selling the car I asked the finance manager how long it would take for the loan to be paid off. He said, "about thirty seconds."

Well that didn't happen -- the loan is still open. And I called Nissan Finance on Thursday and as far as they know I still owe them money. Then I called the dealership to ask what was up with that and person who answered sent me to the sales manager's voicemail and then he didn't call back.

I called the dealership again today, Saturday, and reached the finance manager. He told me "it's on a ten-day payoff" and "I'll need to talk to the business office and unfortunately they're closed on Saturday I'll look into it...."

I don't know what a "ten-day payoff" is. And he knows I don't know what that means. He just said it to get rid of me. For all I know, he just made up that expression on the spot to make it sound like there's a valid "official" reason for them to not simply pay me the money they owe me, when the real reason is it's just not a priority and they'll get to it when they get to it, if ever.

He said I'm not responsible for the accumulating interest on the loan.

My concern (aside from just will they ever give me the money they owe me) is that if they keep delaying, another payment could come due. So then what am I supposed to do? Pay it? That's ridiculous. I don't even own the car anymore. But if I don't it could become overdue and damage my credit.

The problem is at this point I'm so frustrated with these guys I can't even talk to them. They have this sneering, contemptuous, impatient, "you're the one who's being unreasonable" ATTITUDE that just gets on my last nerve, to the point where I lose my composure.

Ok, MAYBE if I wait a few days the check will arrive and the loan will get paid off and everything will straighten itself out.

But they've already lied to me once (the "thirty seconds" thing) and ignored my one phone call.

So maybe it won't all just work out, and in two weeks I'll have a loan payment due for a car I no longer own.

I feel like I need to take action now to make sure this is resolved BEFORE my credit gets all screwed up.

But I don't know what action to take.

Calling them hasn't helped.

The only thing I can think of left to do is hire a lawyer.

But I don't know how.

I have zero experience with hiring lawyers. Where do you start?

I mean there's Google, obviously, but it seems like for something like this you don't want just whatever random lawyer who came up in a search.

How do people find a good lawyer who deals a specific type of problem?

Or is there some other effective action I can take aside from seeking legal counsel?

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
posted by trevor_case to Law & Government (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would wait, and just call them all week. You don't need to worry about lawyers right away. That's just another expense at this point. Just calm down, and start harassing them Monday.
posted by discopolo at 1:50 PM on November 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

The guy who told you "30 seconds" probably lied to you (this kind of stuff never happens instantaneously). The ten-day guy was probably closer to the truth. I wouldn't call anymore. I'd go to the dealership in person and ask to talk to someone in authority. Be polite.
posted by alex1965 at 1:54 PM on November 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

We just went through this when we traded in my wife's car six months ago.

Relax. A Ten-Day Payoff is usually (from what I understand), the bank is notified of the deal and the dealership's intention to pay off the balance of the loan. The "ten day payoff" amount is what it would cost you to pay the loan, and the quote is usually good for ten days. At that point, interest once again makes a difference, and the payoff amount will change (slightly, significantly, depends on how close you are to your statement date).

From us turning in the vehicle to the dealer (long story short: it went in for scheduled maintenance, the dealer offered a generous buyback, and we took it...), to us actually having the check in our hands was about a week. You're kind of dealing with two sides of the same organization, the used car side (who probably bought your car), and the bigger new car side (which usually handles payouts for both).

We walked in, unannounced, about 48 hours after the deal and asked to speak to the salesman we made the deal with. He introduced us to the dealership manager (probably to transfer responsibility to somebody else), and that's who we talked to from then on. He told us he would have our check in 72 hours, and we made an appointment with him.

72 hours later, we walked out of the dealership with a check-in-hand. It really depends on 1) the size of the dealership, 2) how busy they are at the time (end-of-the-month is VERY hectic, for example), and 3) the workload for the accounting department at the time (somebody has to approve issuance of the check, and they will invariably make sure they are covered on their end in regards to the loan originator and that the title is good-to-go).
posted by Master Gunner at 2:02 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers.

@alex1965 -- it was the same guy who first told me "thirty seconds" and then today told me "ten-day payoff."

Based on painful experience, hearing a different story every time you ask is a really bad sign that these guys are going to be a problem.
posted by trevor_case at 2:04 PM on November 15, 2014

Calling them hasn't helped.

Be realistic here - something has gone wrong and you have called them once. Not calling back is hardly surprising from a dealer and does not immediately trip this into lawyer territory. You are over-reacting. I mean, you are justified in being annoyed (and you are in the right here) but blowing your top and considering legal action after one phone call means you need to take a deep breath and step away from this mentally for a second. Just because it wasn't instantly dealt with how you (or even they) were expecting, doesn't mean 'bad signs', malicious intent or even incompetence necessarily.

Call back on Monday, ask to speak to the manager of the dealership. Don't speak to anyone else, or explain why, but speak to the manager. Call back if you can't speak to him (even if he says he will call back). Dealerships are very busy and call backs often don't happen.

When you get hold of the manager, explain clearly and calmly that you were told the loan would be paid off straight away (which was doubtless wrong information). Make sure he addresses the fact his employee gave wrong information. Confirm that your responsibility for the loan ended at the date and time of hand over of the car/signing the paperwork. Confirm with them their time scale for the cheque and loan clearance and explain your concern over the wrong information and unclear timescale. Ask him how he is going to address it. Note down what you want to clarify before you call, and note down the answers.

If you can't speak to the dealer manager, just turn up at the dealership and make it clear you need to see him. All this will take to get resolved is speaking to someone in authority, then if you need to escalate doing so by being insistent and reasonable (but inflexible and persistent). They will make this go away.
posted by Brockles at 2:31 PM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't get all fretful just yet. Husbunny and I sold our cars to the dealership and it took about 10 or so days for everything to settle and for the check to arrive in our mailbox.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:59 PM on November 15, 2014

Response by poster: Be realistic here - something has gone wrong and you have called them once.

Twice, actually -- sorry, I was unclear. "they ignored my one phone call" is Northern CA slang for "they ignored one particular phone call I made" (but answered the other).

But anyway, yeah. I understand what you're saying.

Thanks for the advice.

I can try waiting a few more days and maybe going in there again.
posted by trevor_case at 3:02 PM on November 15, 2014

Car dealerships (and especially new car dealerships), while having poor reputations for shady dealings, are still legitimate businesses. They aren't trying to steal your car, so it will eventually work out. A ten-day payoff assumes that it will take 10 days for the payment to clear, so there are 10 days of interest built into the payoff quote. If your payment gets processed earlier, the bank will send you a small check for the balance.

Worst case scenario, you make a payment on the due date, then the bank sends you a refund check when the payment from the dealership clears.

Don't forget, there's a lag time at your bank too, to verify that the payment is legit, etc.
posted by hwyengr at 3:02 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that Tuesday was a bank holiday, so it's likely that the paperwork didn't even get started till Wednesday.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:11 PM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

It actually sounds entirely reasonable to me that yes, it would take all of 30 seconds for the finance manager to do at that moment what needed to happen to put things in motion. The 10-day period, as others have explained, is how long that payoff amount quoted by the loan company is good for. In other words, by telling you it was in that, he was answering your concerns about interest accumulating for each day that goes by.

It's entirely possible that you didn't get called back because he hadn't gotten to you on his list yet. He might not have even been there, especially if he had kids - a lot of places had school holidays this week.

You stated you talked to the finance manager, who quite reasonably would need to check with the business office when they are there. Not unusual for the business office to be M-F.

And you won't get the check in the mail until the rest of it's done. And then, depending on where it gets mailed from, it might even take another four business days.

So yes, two phone calls and five days total - really only three business days - and you're thinking you need a lawyer and that it's going to magically immediately affect your credit right now? (A payment can't even be reported to the credit bureaus as being "late" until it's 30 days after its due date and still not paid.)

Calm down, call them Monday... and it'll be a lot more pleasant and effective if you can keep yourself from overreacting like this.
posted by stormyteal at 4:47 PM on November 15, 2014

I agree with all the 'calm down' advice, go in, be polite, etc.
But I would note one thing: The finance manager didn't 'lie,' nor did he 'set things in motion.' He defined a contract with you. And that's that. You owe no interest, no nothing, beyond that 30 seconds. I believe you can win this 100%.
posted by LonnieK at 5:08 PM on November 15, 2014

I missed the part about the difference between the loan balance and the selling price. You should have walked out of the dealership that day with that check. The payoff will take time, But press a little harder for the money due you.
posted by hwyengr at 6:24 PM on November 15, 2014

I would just go down there and explain you're confused about what's happening and it seems like the process wasn't made clear. Be polite, friendly and avoid accusing them of anything, but press for specifics and, if applicable, documentation.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:31 PM on November 15, 2014

For me, it took two weeks for them to pay off the loan and another two weeks for figure out how much was left and actually mail me a check.

This was me selling my car back to the Toyota dealer and my loan was held by the Toyota financing company.

I'd just be patient.
posted by ethidda at 10:38 PM on November 15, 2014

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