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  1. #1
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    Apr 2012
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    Default Bought Used Car from Private Seller, but Not the Owner of the Car

    My question involves a consumer law issue in the State of: California

    Last week I purchased a used car from a private seller on craigslist for $1800 cash. The car had issues after a 15 minute drive, it started smoking, sputtering and stalling, but I was able to get it to a repair shop and spent $600 to repair it to functioning. The ad claimed the car to have 120,000 miles which is approximately what the odometer read. But the next day, I saw an oil change sticker at the very top of the windshield which read 262,xxx miles with the date of 8-6-11. I then looked the car up on carfax and verified that the car had at least 258,xxx miles. Two days after the purchase, I had to replace the battery at $100. Furthermore, the title of the car is not in the sellers name, he told me he was selling it for a friend. But I looked up the address on the title on google maps and it doesn't seem to exist, the title looks legit though. I haven't been to the DMV yet because it seemed like the seller wanted me to go to the DMV right away. I want to be sure of what action I should take.

    As far as evidence goes, I have a text message from the seller which shows an address which I met him at, an email from him which says, "check it out...(the address where I was to meet him)," I think I have his name and possibly his address, I have the craigslist ad he posted and the receipts from the repair shop and battery purchase.

    Legally, what can I do? I would either like $1000 back to compensate for the extra mileage and keep the car, or $2400 for the car and repairs I put into it. I would also like to know if this guy is a crook and see that he doesn't do this to anyone else.

    I understand I made a stupid decision in buying this car, I didn't really understand what I was getting myself into. But is there anything I can do?

  2. #2
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    Sep 2011
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    Default Re: Bought Used Car from Private Seller, but Not the Owner of the Car

    All the diligent things you did, should have been done before you purchased the car. Now it is yours, to spend money on. If you do not complete the title transfer, assuming the conveyance is properly notarized, you will not be able to drive the car.
    Dear Santa. For Xmas this year I want a fat bank account and a slim body. Please don't mix them up again.
    Why do stores in the US have so many undocumented shoppers?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Bought Used Car from Private Seller, but Not the Owner of the Car

    Quote Quoting matthias4
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    Last week I purchased a used car from a private seller on craigslist for $1800 cash. The car had issues after a 15 minute drive, it started smoking, sputtering and stalling, but I was able to get it to a repair shop and spent $600 to repair it to functioning.
    It would have been sensible to have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic or to at least test drive the vehicle before paying the money. If you did test drive the car and it broke down after you bought it "as is", even if fifteen minutes later, that's no longer the seller's problem. (But it's worth asking - the car passed a smog check?)
    Quote Quoting matthias4
    Two days after the purchase, I had to replace the battery at $100.
    Once again, if you bought the car "as is" that's not the seller's problem.
    Quote Quoting matthias4
    The ad claimed the car to have 120,000 miles which is approximately what the odometer read. But the next day, I saw an oil change sticker at the very top of the windshield which read 262,xxx miles with the date of 8-6-11. I then looked the car up on carfax and verified that the car had at least 258,xxx miles.
    Quote Quoting matthias4
    Furthermore, the title of the car is not in the sellers name, he told me he was selling it for a friend.
    How did they manage to convey title to you? Was the title already signed by the owner? If this person was acting as an agent, do you have any evidence that he knowingly misrepresented anything about the car?
    Quote Quoting matthias4
    Legally, what can I do? I would either like $1000 back to compensate for the extra mileage and keep the car, or $2400 for the car and repairs I put into it. I would also like to know if this guy is a crook and see that he doesn't do this to anyone else.
    We, at this point, know nothing about the actual owner of the car or how the person you dealt with came to be selling the car. If in fact he was the seller's agent, the owner rolled back the odometer, and the owner knew that the agent would pass on incorrect information about the vehicle (innocently or not) to the buyer, you have a claim against the owner. If the owner had sold the car to the person you bought it from, but had not completed the buyer's portion of the title such that you were added and the person you bought it from is 'invisible' in the transaction, it may well be that the owner did not misrepresent the mileage, and that the guy you bought the car from was the person who tampered with the odometer and ran the ad. Perhaps they were in cahoots.

    You can try filing a police report and, should the police be interested in pursuing the matter, they can investigate for possible fraud. Otherwise it would appear that your best bet would be to sue the "owner" and "agent" and let them sort it out between themselves who is responsible for what. Damages? A bit tricky. You would have been better off suing before you put a lot of money into repairing the car. You can sue for rescission - the undoing of the contract - and try to claim damages above the purchase price on the ground that it would be "unjust enrichment" for the seller to get the car back and benefit from the repairs you performed, but I won't promise you what a court will find or award. If you want to try to make a claim for diminished value, the difference between the car with 120,00 miles and the car with 260,000 miles, you had best have some admissible evidence of the difference in value that would result.

    How is it that you're managing to drive the car around if you haven't registered it? Is it also uninsured?

  4. #4
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    Apr 2012
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    Default Re: Bought Used Car from Private Seller, but Not the Owner of the Car

    "But it's worth asking - the car passed a smog check?"

    I did test drive the car and I haven't done a smog check yet.

    "How did they manage to convey title to you? Was the title already signed by the owner? If this person was acting as an agent, do you have any evidence that he knowingly misrepresented anything about the car?"

    The title was signed by the owner. All the evidence I have is what I mentioned in the original post.

    "If you want to try to make a claim for diminished value, the difference between the car with 120,00 miles and the car with 260,000 miles, you had best have some admissible evidence of the difference in value that would result."

    I have the kelley blue book listing for the car in fair condition at 258,xxx miles which is $900, I bought the car for $1,800 under the impression that is was 120,xxx miles. Would that constitute as admissible evidence?

    "How is it that you're managing to drive the car around if you haven't registered it? Is it also uninsured?"

    I also have the up to date insurance from the previous owner and I'm driving my wife's car.

    Do you think I should register the car under my name as soon as possible or wait all of this out? I do need to drive the car eventually and don't want to spend more money on another car (especially after this experience).

    Thanks for your post, its really helping me out.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Bought Used Car from Private Seller, but Not the Owner of the Car

    Quote Quoting matthias4
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    I did test drive the car and I haven't done a smog check yet.
    You had best do that, both to follow the law and because the car has to pass a smog check to be legally sold.
    Quote Quoting matthias4
    The title was signed by the owner. All the evidence I have is what I mentioned in the original post.
    You didn't answer the question. Are we supposed to guess?
    Quote Quoting matthias4
    I have the kelley blue book listing for the car in fair condition at 258,xxx miles which is $900, I bought the car for $1,800 under the impression that is was 120,xxx miles. Would that constitute as admissible evidence?
    I'm not going to try to guess as to what a small claims judge will deem acceptable. Personally, I would try to have testimony from a competent appraiser.
    Quote Quoting matthias4
    I also have the up to date insurance from the previous owner and I'm driving my wife's car.
    You didn't answer the question, but you seem to be admitting that you're driving without registering or insuring the car. I expect that the former owner has canceled that policy, by the way.
    Quote Quoting matthias4
    Do you think I should register the car under my name as soon as possible or wait all of this out?
    Once you decide what you want to do, and find out if the car will pass a smog check, get back to us.

  6. #6
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    Sep 2011
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    Default Re: Bought Used Car from Private Seller, but Not the Owner of the Car

    Your problem is that for a sale to be legal, the owner/seller must get the car smogged prior to sale, unless the vehicle is sold as salvage. Since you took possession off a person other than the owner, to pursue anything will require a court action. You took the car, knowing it was not running properly. You likely have a bad address and the owner will disclaim any knowledge of you and that they sold it as salvage.
    Dear Santa. For Xmas this year I want a fat bank account and a slim body. Please don't mix them up again.
    Why do stores in the US have so many undocumented shoppers?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    3

    Default Re: Bought Used Car from Private Seller, but Not the Owner of the Car

    The car did not pass smog. What I really want to do now is get my money back from the car and the work that was put into it, approximately $2400.

    "You didn't answer the question. Are we supposed to guess?"

    I guess I don't have any evidence of intentional tampering with the odometer. All I know is that as early as August 2011 the car had 262,xxx miles, the odometer now shows 122,xxx miles and the most recent change of owner reported was April 28, 2011.

    Should I press charges in this situation, should I sue or can I do both?

    "You didn't answer the question, but you seem to be admitting that you're driving without registering or insuring the car. I expect that the former owner has canceled that policy, by the way."

    To answer this question, yes, I have been driving this car illegally. However, it is not my primary mode of transportation, I've been wanting to know if it works before registering it. Now I just want my money back.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Bought Used Car from Private Seller, but Not the Owner of the Car

    Again, your problem is you bought it improperly, from an individual who was not the owner. This individual may have bought it as salvage. It is up to you to prove the owner is liable.
    Dear Santa. For Xmas this year I want a fat bank account and a slim body. Please don't mix them up again.
    Why do stores in the US have so many undocumented shoppers?

  9. #9
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    Feb 2010
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    CT & IL
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    Default Re: Bought Used Car from Private Seller, but Not the Owner of the Car

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    View Post
    I'm not going to try to guess as to what a small claims judge will deem acceptable. Personally, I would try to have testimony from a competent appraiser.
    .
    NADA, Edmunds used car guides have judicial notice...should be OK with either one. NADA-everyone knows.

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