Ethics: Getting Rid of a Defective Used Car
March 1, 2016 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I bought a late-model used car last year which appears to be defective in one or more ways which are covered under the manufacturer's warranty, but which I am unable to get the manufacturer to fix. Is there any way that I can get rid of the car for a reasonable price without being a huge jerk?

The car in question is a 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid. It has intermittent problems involving the high voltage battery system and (more immediately worryingly) the brake system. Both of these problems would presumably be covered under the manufacturer's "hybrid component" warranty if I could get the dealer to reproduce them, which I cannot.

At this point, I think my options are to hire a lawyer and sue the manufacturer under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which I really don't want to do, or to get rid of the car. But I can't think of any ethical way to get rid of the car for any reasonable amount of money.

Obviously, I can't just sell the car to a private party and tell them that nothing is wrong with it.

It "feels" slightly less gross to trade the car in to a dealership but, if I do, won't they just sell it to some other unsuspecting sap without telling them that there is a bunch of stuff wrong with it?

I don't really see any good options here; do any of you?
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
There's nothing wrong with selling the car if you're upfront about the situation. I suppose you could say nothing if someone doesn't ask, but you're going to get asked what's wrong with it, why you're selling it. It's best to just put it all up front in the Craigslist ad (or whatever). People will respect that and you'll probably get offers from people who think they can get it fixed more easily than you.
posted by michaelh at 12:14 PM on March 1, 2016

Presumably, any dealership, being the pros they are, will thoroughly look over the car including checking any dealer records available. Presumably, they can also fix any problems much cheaper than you can. I would be ok with trading it into a dealer. Not so much in a private transaction without full disclosure that you think it has some problems that the dealer has been unable to reproduce.

But no, your options are not great. Have you considered going over the dealer's head to a regional manager for the warranty repairs?
posted by AugustWest at 12:20 PM on March 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

You are fine, morally and ethically if you disclose everything to the dealer or to the buyer if you are selling yourself. If you tell the dealer and the dealer doesn't tell its buyers, that is on the dealer, not you.
posted by bearwife at 12:43 PM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Every car I've sold has included a laundry list of what's wrong and what's right with it. You aren't going to make a profit, so there's no reason not to be completely honest. There is always someone who will buy it. The only question is the price at which it will sell.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:28 PM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would continue to pursue this with the dealership, or if you have to, sue the manufacturer. Not because the other options are "unethical" but because I would want the responsible parties to ultimately be... responsible, and if you sell the car on, it will eventually be out of warranty, and Ford/dealership would have basically gotten away with selling the public a defective car.

It's going to be a pain in your ass, but call it spite or justice or satisfaction: I would want to make the them pay.
posted by danny the boy at 4:00 PM on March 1, 2016

Also, is there some kind "investigative journalist" for the common man's problems type of person on your local news channel? If you get past a certain publicity threshold, the dealership will just deal with it to avoid bad publicity.
posted by danny the boy at 4:03 PM on March 1, 2016

Have you tried escalating? If I understand correctly it's an intermittent problem that the dealer can't reproduce? They tried to fix it but cannot? Go to Ford customer service and let them help you.
posted by fixedgear at 4:56 PM on March 1, 2016

People buy things for all types of reasons - from project cars to spare parts. If you disclose the issues, then you are ethical as a seller. However, you are likely to take a beating on the purchase price.

If the dealer can't resolve the issue call Ford directly: 1-800-392-3673. Ask how you can escalate a safety issue the dealer is unable to fix. You may need to bulldog a bit, but it's worth the effort.
posted by 26.2 at 7:07 PM on March 1, 2016

The Better Business Bureau used to have an arbitration program with some automakers. Not sure if it still exists, but worth a call.
posted by theora55 at 10:13 AM on March 2, 2016

Take a video. Write it down each time this occurs, with dates and time, and create a document/letter. Be reasonable and calm and sound like a rational person. Do not make threats.

You would be surprised how many vehicles change ownership and the second owner had completely different concerns than the first owner. First owner takes car in for oil changes like clockwork and no other complaints. Second owner convinced there is transmission problem. Third owner takes car in a couple times for trim complaints but does not notice any transmission problem. Etc. What you think of as a huge defect may not, in fact, matter very much to another buyer.
posted by quincunx at 2:36 PM on March 2, 2016

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