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Private Car Sale: As-Is or Fraud?

Discussion in 'Consumer Law, Contracts, Warranties' started by Craiger, Aug 30, 2022.

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  1. Craiger

    Craiger Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
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    I bought a car from a private seller listing on FaceBook Marketplace. The car was not running, and had not run for 2 years. The add said that the car had a bad head gasket. The seller (in writing) said he had it "looked over" by a mechanic and that a repair estimate was given to repair the head. The father of the seller (actually the title holder) was a retired mechanic and verified that though there could be other problems, mechanics believed the head was the primary problem. Only willing to purchase a "head" problem and not a "bad engine," I asked detailed questions about the initial breakdown, which convinced me that the stated diagnosis was accurate. The seller merely said it briefly overheated so he pulled the car over and had it towed. He also said he noticed a little smoke/steam from under the hood. After purchasing the car, I got it started and a "house enveloping" cloud of smoke and stream of oil poured out of the exhaust pipe. I quickly found a damaged spark plug, which led me to a destroyed piston and engine. If a mechanic inspected this car, he would have quickly found these problems. I believe (but cannot prove) the sellers knew the whole engine was bad and withheld the smoke and noise symptoms that must have accompanied this catastrophic damage. Further, I believe they lied about having a mechanic "look it over" and give a repair estimate. The car was sold As-Is. Do I have a case of fraud?
     
  2. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    No, not at all. You can't prove what the seller "knew". You bought a car that had been sitting for 2 years with a blown head gasket and reports of steam and smoke from under the hood. Furthermore, you were told there could be other problems. You had every opportunity to inspect the vehicle PRIOR to purchasing it, yet you chose not to.
     
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  3. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    No.

    Zigner has explained it perfectly.
     
  4. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    "As is" regarding used car sales in Texas have a very precise meaning, however it fails to cover intentional misrepresentations or failure to disclose material defects the seller knew about at the time of the sale.

    That area of the law is very clear.

    The difficulty is proving that the seller knew or should have known of the material defect.

    In other words, you'll have problems with evidence to support what you suspect.

    You need to ensure you preserve any evidence of the defect, if possible, such as evidence of additives, or attempts to conceal the defect.

    In your case, you appear to have relied solely upon the seller's representations.

    You could have had YOUR MECHANIC investigate and/or diagnose any mechanical problems with the car before buying it.

    Finally, this:

    There are several conditions a car can come in as one attempts to purchase any used motor vehicle.

    Two such conditions are “new" and “used," but there's a third description that may show up on used vehicles: “as is".




    Buying “As Is" from a Private Seller =

    A majority of “as is" sales are from private sellers.

    Unless your purchase agreement states otherwise, a private sale is on an “as is" basis.

    Private sales are much less regulated than sales at a dealer.

    Many states don't require a private seller to ensure the car will pass state inspection before selling it.

    You may also have limited legal recourse regarding:

    An inaccurate odometer reading.

    Misinformation regarding the number of owners on the title.

    A seller not disclosing the car's true accident history.

    If the car was stolen and retitled.

    If the car was declared salvage in another state.

    To avoid many of the above scenarios, consider running a VIN check on the car to obtain a vehicle history report. This should disclose any ugly situations that the seller did not.


    Buying a Car “As Is” | DMV.ORG
    ...


    Buying a New or Used Car | Office of the Attorney General
    ...


    Texas Lemon Law | TxDMV.gov
    ...
     
  5. Craiger

    Craiger Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you. Proving that they knew is difficult. In making my decision, I relied upon the seller's word that a mechanic looked at it (seller turns out to be a small time used car salesman selling his personal car) and the father (who holds title) who spent his life as a mechanic. Both should have known but strongly presented the story that "mechanics believed it was a head issue" when I (a shade tree mechanic) found evidence of a destroyed engine by taking out the 4 spark plugs. The condition and location of the car prevented me from taking it to a mechanic for my own inspection. Thus, I relied upon their descriptions.
     
  6. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Never rely solely upon the seller's representations (often referred to as puffery) in order to make a buying decision.

    If you can't (or aren't allowed) to have YOUR representative or professional to examine the item, walk away from the deal.

    By walking away, you protect yourself and your money!!!

    No need to explain further, mate, your original post was very clear.

    I wish you all the best, as you recover from your recent fleecing.
     
  7. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    So, tell me this: What does "looked at" mean?
    (See the problem there?)
     
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  8. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Sorry, but only a fool relies on the descriptions made by somebody who is trying to sell him something.

    I've bought and sold cars for 50+ years. One look at all the things you were told and I could have guaranteed that you'd be looking at an engine that needed a complete overhaul or replacement. It was all in there.

    Moral of the story: Never rely on anything anybody tells you when they are trying to sell you something. Applies to cars (especially), homes, and anything that's used.
     
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  9. Craiger

    Craiger Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Yes... I thought we were communicating, but I see (now) that I couldn't pin him down in court.
     
  10. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    It's unfortunate that we can't trust our fellow human beings to be honest in their dealings with others.
     
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  11. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    Tl;dr: you have less than a zero percent chance of prevailing on a fraud claim.

    Let's review the things you knew about this car at the time you bought it:
    • "The car was not running, and had not run for 2 years."
    • "[T]he car had a bad head gasket."
    • [T]here could be other problems."
    • The car had (at some unstated point in time) "briefly overheated so [the seller] pulled the car over and had it towed."
    • The seller "noticed a little smoke/steam from under the hood."
    You were also told, and have no evidence to the contrary:
    • "The seller . . . had [the car] 'looked over' by a mechanic[,] that a repair estimate was given to repair the head[, and that] [t]he father of the seller . . . was a retired mechanic and verified that though there could be other problems, mechanics believed the head was the primary problem."
    It's not clear to me whether your reference to "mechanics" (plural) was intentional or a typo.

    You claim that you were "[o]nly willing to purchase a 'head' problem and not a 'bad engine.'" However, despite all the information you had about this car, you apparently had no inspection of your own done. You then told us that, after buying the car, you "quickly found a damaged spark plug, which led [you] to a destroyed piston and engine." This is obviously something that easily could have been ascertained before you bought the car.

    You further claim that, if "a mechanic inspected this car, he would have quickly found these problems." While that may be true, you have no reason to believe that any mechanic did an inspection that would have revealed these problems. Nor do you have any reason to believe that any mechanic ever reported these things to your seller. Even if those things had been reported to the seller, the seller was under no obligation to disclose them to you unless you asked.

    Last, you admit that, while you "believe" certain things to be true, you "cannot prove" those things.

    Bottom line: You knew this car was a junker when you bought it. You (apparently) have no evidence that anything you were told about the car was false and you got no warranty of any sort.

    In order to maintain a successful claim of fraud, you would have to prove the following:

    1. The seller made a false statement of fact regarding the car or failed to disclose something that he had a legal obligation to disclose. You cannot prove this (and, in this case, the seller had no legal obligation to disclose anything).

    2. That the false statement(s) of fact were material to your decision to buy the car. Since you can't prove any false statement of fact, the question of materiality becomes moot.

    3. That you reasonably relied on the false statement of fact. Any reliance here is unreasonable because a reasonable person knowing that the car was a junker would have had an independent inspection done.
     
  12. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    Just to clear up this one point for you: The seller's father is also a mechanic, albeit retired, thus the plural usage of the word.
     
  13. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    It's human nature to lie, cheat, and be dishonest about something, sometime.
     

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