Help us fight back after we bought a bad used car
September 23, 2019 3:01 AM   Subscribe

We recently bought a 2013 Volkswagen from a Toyota dealership for $7500. We paid cash and signed an As-Is document. After driving the car for a week, the Check Engine light came on. We took the vehicle to the Volkswagen dealership across the street from the Toyota dealership, and they said there are $5800 worth of repairs needed on the car, primarily all in the engine. They also said that the repairs are extensive enough that the selling dealership had to have known about them when they sold it.

We took documentation of the repairs back to the selling dealership on Saturday. They looked at the car and at all of the documentation from Volkswagen then told us that they wanted to drive the car over to Volkswagen on Monday (later today) to talk to them about it.

Do we have any kind of rights here to get Toyota to fix the car for us? Or are we completely out of luck and just consider we paid a $7500 stupid tax and move on with life?

We usually buy new cars so that we don't run the risk of this kind of thing happening, but we are working hard to eliminate debt in our family and wanted to try used. We would appreciate any advice you have for our specific situation or in general for buying used cars so as not to have this happen again!

We live in Texas if that makes a difference.
posted by allison00 to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total)
At a minimum; 7500 credit towards anything else on their lot.

I don't believe in stuff like '$7500 stupid tax'; ymmv.

An 'as-is' document or not; selling dealership owes you some measure towards making it all correct.

Of course and always; letters to the homebrand of 'Toyota' which they represent; might not be a bad writing to consider as a matter of how they are representing the Toyota brand with their business ethics.
posted by buzzman at 4:20 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Good job changing your behavior to make a dent in debt! That’s hard.

We always buy late-model used, here are our rules: Don’t buy as-is, is a good start. If it’s not certified by the maker, make sure there’s a solid warranty provided by the dealer. If you’re not buying from a dealership, get a mechanic (of your choice) to look over it before you buy.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:20 AM on September 23, 2019 [8 favorites]

Just wondering what $5800 worth of repairs the car needs? Was the car smacked up? I've been driving old VWs forever and the most I've ever had to ponder spending was $2000 for the steering rack and that was because my car had been in a previous accident.

That sounds slightly fishy to me.

I might take the car to a GOOD VW place, the dealers are terrible (to get a timing belt on my car done by the dealer is $1700 around here (MD) and I had a guy (recommended online) do it in his backyard for $700 (sounds fishy but he really knows the cars well). Having a dealer do major work for you is not a good plan.

This list is mostly about diesels but should work for any VW

BTW I think VWs suck pretty hard, I would never buy one (the first one I got cheap, the second one my dad gave me). Parts are very expensive and then finding someone to fix them can be a total pain in the...not a particularly economical brand if that's what you're looking for (that said, mine tends to be pretty reliable, as long as I pay a few hundred every couple of months to fix something -it's a 99)
posted by sully75 at 4:35 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

We took the vehicle to the Volkswagen dealership across the street from the Toyota dealership...

Hmmm. By any chance, the VW dealership doesn't happen to be owned by the same "auto group" as the Toyota dealership? If so, that would call into question their neutrality.

$5800 worth of repairs is pretty mind-boggling. That said, I drive a VW and things can definitely get expensive quick on them. I would suspect that $5800 includes labor and, depending on what needs done, there could be a lot of labor involved. Plus, it's a VW dealer, and they're going to be far more expensive than an independent shop would be.

But...You should always take a used car to an independent shop for an inspection before signing any purchase agreement. In your case, a 2013 VW being sold as-is for a mere $7500? That alone raises some red flags to me. It didn't happen to have a salvage title, did it?

I fear you're gonna get hosed here. The Toyota dealership sold it to you as-is and, unless Texas has some law(s) requiring sellers to reveal defects before the sale, that's pretty much the end of their liability.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:57 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Check your qualifications for a refund or similar through local Texas Lemon Laws. BBB link for Texas.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:14 AM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Does your state could have lemon laws or similar? In that case you might have some protections here. Even if not, there might be some other loophole (your state probably has a consumer protections body you could contact), or you might be able to make some headway with the dealership by threatening to report to BBB or posting on Facebook/Google/Yelp about how they scammed you, if you have the stomach for that.
posted by shaademaan at 6:15 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Here are the details of the $5800:
- Replace spark plugs and coil packs and clean the valves for carbon build up, $1420
- Replace the upper timing chain cover, $585
- Replace valve cover gasket, $1100
- Replace upper timing cover, $590
- Reseal cam carrier, $1030
- Upper timing cover leaking oil - replace cover with gasket, $680
- Perform brake system fluid exchange, $150

I do not believe they are the same auto group, but I will check that out today.
posted by allison00 at 6:24 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

From the look of that list, you've got one dead coil that's making the check engine light come on, some oil leaks, and a dealership with dollar signs in his eyes.
-The upper timing chain cover and the gasket for same should not be six hundred bucks and six hundred more; even if $600 is the going rate for that, the extra cost for the gasket should only be the cost of the gasket.
-unless something is really weird, the "timing cover" and the "timing chain cover" are the same thing.
-Cam carrier? That's inside the valve cover. Sounds like they want to charge you (a LOT) to open something up, cluse it back up sealing better, then open it back up to do something underneath.
-"clean the valves" = spray some sea foam in the intake for a few minutes.
-Brake fluid flush is the only thing with a reasonable price...but it's not necessary.
posted by notsnot at 6:46 AM on September 23, 2019 [10 favorites]

Take the car to an honest mechanic and they will beat the price on the repairs substantially and tell you what things can wait, those sound extreme for a 6 year old car. Dealerships are money pits and there's no need to take a used warranty-less car to one. I bought a used car 6 years ago that's now 14 years old and I've maybe spent that amount over the past several years including two sets of new tires.

Generally the benefit of buying a car "as is" is there may be some things wrong with it but you're paying a low enough price that the difference can go to the repairs (which should be listed by the seller and/or verified by an external mechanic), unfortunately that doesn't sound like it here although you don't mention what model so maybe you're still saving several thousand?
posted by lafemma at 6:55 AM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

- Replace spark plugs and coil packs and clean the valves for carbon build up, $1420
- Replace the upper timing chain cover, $585
- Replace valve cover gasket, $1100
- Replace upper timing cover, $590
- Reseal cam carrier, $1030
- Upper timing cover leaking oil - replace cover with gasket, $680
- Perform brake system fluid exchange, $150

The only thing causing the check engine light there are the coil packs. Dealership prices are ALWAYS hideously expensive. 'clean the valves for carbon build up' sounds like hand wavy shit to me. It's too cheap a quote to mean they are taking the engine apart and actually cleaning them, so it sounds like they will be fixing the coils and putting a cleaning solution in the fuel. Whatevs.

If you took this to a VW specialist (NEVER go to a dealership for an >5 years old car, is my methodology) or even a decent independent shop and got them to fix it they'd probably do the coils and plugs for <>
Brake fluid flush is a time thing and standard in all cars. People often ignore it, but if it has never been done to that car I would certainly consider it being done at a cheaper place. Brake fluid breaks down/takes on water which can strongly affect it's efficiency so is a serious issue, although 'put off able' if you have zero cash.

Maybe the timing chain cover is cracked. Big deal. It's an oil leak, so it is not very urgent, just keep an eye on the level.
posted by Brockles at 7:37 AM on September 23, 2019 [9 favorites]

praemunire is correct - Texas, and most states, do not cover used car purchases under their Lemon Laws.

You only real option is to look at deceptive practices if you can prove that the dealership "Withheld any other material information about a new or used vehicle"

Sadly, the duty here is on you, the buyer, to inspect the car, ask questions, and get the vehicles history up front, before the transaction takes place.
posted by zenon at 8:43 AM on September 23, 2019

$5800 is a new motor. Hell yeah they owe you an explanation. And a full credit toward a different car.

Another lesson here is never ever ever buy any used car, warrantied or not, dealer or not, expensive or cheap, without spending $100-200 on a proper and detailed PPI — a pre-purchase inspection. It is by far worth the money even if it only reveals things you might need to deal with sooner or later. And you can even have it done on site by a growing number of mobile services if necessary although I’d prefer my own trusted long time mechanic. Any dealer or private seller who won’t cooperate in helping you do this is worth walking away from.

And I wouldn’t touch a modern VW with a 10 foot pole. Far too many friends and family have nightmare stories.
posted by spitbull at 8:45 AM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Most of the work listed there is unnecessary. Like others said, it's the coils and spark plugs that are probably causing the check engine light.

All of the other items are things that any decent independent mechanic wouldn't actually recommend having done until they were nearly gushing oil. My mechanic ranks every item on a 1-10 scale so they can track whether things are getting worse, and even at a 7/10 on a leaky power steering pump they will explain that if it gets worse nothing bad will happen, really. Every used car I've owned would have benefited from a new valve cover gasket, but no mechanic I've had ever suggested replacing it because it's not important for the safe operation of the vehicle. Same goes for timing cover.

I'd get the car checked out by an independent mechanic and get an actual *recommendation* of what they think should be done. What you have now is more like a list to get the engine back to gleaming just-off-the-factory-floor condition.
posted by MonsieurBon at 8:59 AM on September 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Listen to Brockles. That quote is garbage. Ask your friends who drive imports and find an honest independent mechanic.
posted by fritley at 10:51 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Not sure how I screwed up the text in that but "got them to fix it they'd probably do the coils and plugs for <>" should be "<$800"
posted by Brockles at 11:26 AM on September 23, 2019

Go to a real mechanic.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:42 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

A couple of things. As is means as is. That's why everyone suggests a prepurchase inspection by an independent mechanic. If a seller or dealer balks at that, then walk out and find something else. As everyone else has mentioned, that list of problems is complete BS. Go to an Autozone or other auto parts store and have them read the actual code the engine management computer is showing. There is a very active VW community. Go to one of the forums and ask what the code means. It's probably a common thing that goes wrong with VW's and everyone will be happy to point you in the right direction.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 12:13 PM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

- Replace the upper timing chain cover, $585
- Replace upper timing cover, $590
- Upper timing cover leaking oil - replace cover with gasket, $680

That is the same "repair" three times.

Dealerships have a set price list for repairs; doesn't matter how long it takes to do a job, you pay X (which is almost always significantly higher than what it would cost at a regular mechanic's, and always pads out the assumed time for labor). So assuming they actually did stand there and replace that cover three times in a row, once with a gasket, you would be charged 100% of the full cost of labor as though they had started from a closed hood every time.

Don't go to a dealer for anything that's not covered under warranty.
posted by current resident at 12:39 PM on September 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Go to an independently owned mechanic, never a dealership (except for free recall work). I am certain your estimate will be quite different. If not, you can try to swap the car for credit as suggested above.
posted by Miko at 5:11 PM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Can't emphasize Brockles' (and s few other folks') advice enough: go to an independant mechanic. That estimate is garbage, redundant and absolutely listing every little thing they could think of rather than the root cause of the check engine light.

I still remember taking the 1985 VW Jetta I bought from my dad in the 90s to the VW dealer for a checkup, and they generated a list of thousands of dollars of things that were absolutely crazy that "needed" to be fixed. I never fixed any of them, and none of those things ever gave me problems. Meanwhile, a different VW dealer charged me hundreds of dollars over multiple attempts to fix an overheating problem, which they couldn't solve, but a local shop determined the cause based on my description alone (without the car present!) so I bought it in and they fixed it for $20, never overheated again.
posted by davejay at 11:53 PM on September 23, 2019

True, my independent mechanic takes delight in mocking the things dealer shops recommend. I think of his signature phrase as “who the hell told you you needed an alignment?” And if you’re *going* to drop six large on repairing a used VW by replacing a half dozen engine parts, you might as well get a rebuilt motor put in by an independent shop. It’s roughly the same cost.

But yeah that estimate is laughable and I would never go near that shop again.
posted by spitbull at 3:08 AM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

UPDATE: We took the car back to the Toyota dealership, and the gave us 2 options: (1) give us our money back or (1) give us the full purchase price toward a different vehicle. We decided to buy another vehicle from them using the full purchase price as a down payment. We made sure this one was certified and had a warranty. It was also a Toyota. No more buying VWs from a Toyota dealership.

Thank you for all of the information and advice!
posted by allison00 at 12:30 PM on October 23, 2019

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