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Car lease excess mileage does not specify units

Discussion in 'Car Sales, Dealers, Repairs, Lemon Law' started by Johnb123, Jul 8, 2020.

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  1. Johnb123

    Johnb123 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
    California
    I will shortly be returning a leased car. A clause within the lease contract states that mileage above a certain limit will be subject to a fee “at a rate of .25 per mile”.

    All other monetary amounts specified in the contract are preceded by a “$”, however the excess mileage clause does not specify units. The dealer had originally given the impression that the charge would be 0.25 cents per mile, but is now claiming it is 0.25 dollars.

    Given the units for the charge are not specified in the contract, would I be able to argue that the excess mileage clause is not enforceable?

    Thanks

    John
     
  2. PayrollHRGuy

    PayrollHRGuy Well-Known Member

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    What's the lease contract say. Exactly.

    Did you actually believe that they were going to charge you one-quarter of a cent per mile when you agreed to the contract?
     
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  3. Johnb123

    Johnb123 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    The contract says "You may be charged for excessive wear based on our standards for normal use and for mileage in excess of 22500 miles for the term of this lease, at a rate of .25 per mile.".

    I did believe the payment to be 0.25 cents per mile, as that was what the dealer told me when the car was first leased, but hadn't studied the contract until now.
     
  4. PayrollHRGuy

    PayrollHRGuy Well-Known Member

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    You may find a judge somewhere that believes that you honestly believed that you would be paying one-quarter of a cent per mile and since ambiguity in the contract will generally fall in favor of the party that didn't write the contract you could when. But I doubt you will.

    I don't believe for a second that the dealer told you "one-quarter of a cent per mile".

    How many miles over are you?
     
  5. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    How so? What exactly did the dealer do to give you the impression that the excess mileage charge would be 1/4 of a cent per mile?

    Would you be able to argue? You've given us no reason to believe you lack the ability to make any argument. If you're intent was to ask whether such an argument would be a winning argument, I'll wait until you answer my question above before answering your question.

    That said, I don't think any reasonable person would believe that the excess mileage charge would be only 1/4 of a cent per mile.
     
  6. Johnb123

    Johnb123 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    The dealer told me verbally that the charge was 1/4 cent per mile. It didn't seem unreasonable to me at the time, as I wasn't aware of market rates for excess mileage charge.

    It seems suspect to me that all other amounts in the contract are prefaced with a "$", whilst the excess mileage charge is not. If I was cynical I would say this was intentional.

    It appears the contract also has an arbitration clause, at the option of either party, which I expect will be exercised.
     
  7. PayrollHRGuy

    PayrollHRGuy Well-Known Member

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    Again, how many miles over are you? I'm asking for a reason.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2020
  8. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    That actually hurts you more than it helps you.
     
  9. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    That's 25 cents per mile.

    1 - "I was told" = the most dangerous phrase in the English language.

    2 - Read your contract. Find the place that says something like "This contract is the only agreement. Anything said outside the contract doesn't count." Or words to that effect.

    I think you will lose.
     
  10. Johnb123

    Johnb123 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    By the end of the lease will likely be around 20,000 miles over.
     
  11. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Then you'll owe $5000.

    You're way you'll only owe $50. Which is never going to happen.

    You'd be better off buying the car when the lease is up.
     
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  12. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    0.25 cents per mile is not realistic. You won't get far with that argument. Any question over the contract should have been settled when you agreed to it. You will be held to whatever is common practice.
     
  13. Johnb123

    Johnb123 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I understood the rate to be 0.25 cents per mile.
     
  14. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    The problem is that is simply unbelievable. There is no reasonable adult who is capable of negotiating a lease who would believe that.
     
  15. PayrollHRGuy

    PayrollHRGuy Well-Known Member

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    While I don't believe that for a minute because it is let's say that is what you really thought. You are going to have to have a lawyer in that arbitration and any subsequent lawsuit. And don't think for a second that you won't need a lawyer to have any chance at success because if this was with a leasing company of any size there are likely thousands of leases out there with ambiguity and they will want to nip this in the bud.

    $5000 will seem cheap considering what you will have to pay to get the lawyer and will likely be about what the initial retainer will cost you.

    Depending on the car and the residual value is you would likely be better off buying the car. At least that way you will have something for your money.
     
  16. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    I'll bet you a 1/4 of a cent that the employee of the dealer whom you claim said this will deny having said it.

    Yeah, but think about it. At 1/4 cent per mile, being over by 20,000 miles (which is more than most folks drive in a year) would only cost you $50. A year-plus worth of mileage for only $50? I submit that no reasonable person would believe that.

    You can make that argument. It's not implausible, but I don't expect it to carry the day. And I disagree that this hurts you more than it helps you. You have an ambiguous provision in the contract. With a form contract, ambiguity is construed against the drafter. The argument is that the drafter clearly knew how to denote dollar amounts, so your argument is, as you stated, that this omission of the "$" must have been intentional. The dealer's argument will, of course, be that it was inadvertent (which it likely was) and that no reasonable person would believe an overage charge of only 1/4 cent per mile.

    Arbitration will be less favorable for you than small claims court.

    Here's the bottom line: When you return the vehicle, the dealer is going to expect you to pay 25 cents per mile. The dealer is not simply going to accept what you have claimed in this thread. If you don't pay, you are going to be sued or have arbitration initiated, and you will very likely lose. Maybe...maybe...you'll be able to convince the dealer to accept something less than 25 cents per mile to settle the matter (e.g., 20 cents per mile).

    I agree that it likely says this. However, in this case, the contract contains an ambiguity, so extrinsic evidence can be admitted despite the existence of the integration clause.

    Arbitration, if it happens, is going to be binding, so there won't be a subsequent lawsuit. Also, any lawsuit would almost certainly be filed in small claims court where lawyers aren't allowed to represent parties.
     

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