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Bought 04 Matrix w/12-month warranty from Dealer - issues

I’d appreciate input, kind people.

I bought an 04 Matrix 9 months ago with low miles (68000 or so) and a 12 month warranty that states the dealer will make all needed repairs and maintenance. So… it turns out that the subframe is so rusty there are holes in it and a big hole in the rocker panel (near the drivers seat, there is only carpet, no metal-OMG)

That and other significant repair problems have been brought to their attention and we meet again next week to discuss my options. I paid a retail price for this car. Low miles, nice interior, 12-month warranty, it seemed good, and so… I never imagined I would be taken for a ride like this.

What do you think I should hold out for? They are required to keep the car “inspectable” throughout the 12 mos. I’m purposely leaving out some of the needed repairs in this description.

Do you think it’s reasonable for me to expect all my money back? I don’t want to be greedy, but I was shocked to learn that they had the car in and out for repairs and were “overlooking” major problems… at the very least. Car has been in their shop multiple times for check engine codes etc.

I think they want to make me happy. What would you do in this case? They are a dealer with “good rep”. How happy should I be?

Not very happy. You got sold a junker.

IMHO you should, if the universe were a fair place, get a full refund. But it isn’t, so chances are that if you’re lucky they’ll deduct 9 month’s worth of depreciation and offer you a reduced settlement, which if it were me I might accept. My guess is that they’ll probably offer you an even swap for a “comparable” vehicle. I’d decline. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

They don’t want to make you happy. They only pretend they want to make you happy. What they really want is to prevent you from filing a fraud complaint with your state’s attorney general’s office. That might open a full investigation into their sales practices and maybe even into their state inspection practices. Don’t be fooled in what their goals are. And realize that their fears are your only bargaining power. You hold some good cards in this transaction. You just need to realize it and use it to your advantage.

Sincere best.

Thank you. The missing details in my story do add up to fraud, and I appreciate your thoughts.

I did make a mistake buying the car, certainly, but they’re in business and have certain obligations.

I agree with you about keeping my distance from buying from them going forward and not taking a swap etc.

The car’s value now is not good, but thanks for the depreciation idea. That may be a reasonable choice.

Trying to keep it non-emotional, and I was kind of kidding around about the “be happy” part–just trying to understand what is reasonable to expect.


Trace the ancestry of that car and you would likely find that it had a previous life in a Rust Belt state in the Great Lakes area.

With rust that severe I would not feel safe in it nor would I want to hang onto it. A lot may depend upon the wording of the warranty and how agreeable the dealer is to buying the vehicle back.
You need to read the warranty terms carefully because in most states cars sold “AS IS” mean just that once the paper is signed; the car is yours, warts and all.

With rust that severe I would not feel safe in the car nor would I even want it. Sheet metal rust is bad enough; subframe rust puts it into the horrible category.

The same thing happened here in ATL and the lady brought it to the local news. The used car dealer did not like being on the news and paid for the repairs of the missing floorboards. Hopefully the dealer is a Toyota dealer and will fix it. If it’s a used car dealer, you will probably have to sue.

Thanks. I don’t want the car; agreed. It’s a parts car, in my opinion–and they knew it.

In retrospect, I’m horrified I’ve been driving it at all, but I do not drive very many miles, so… anyway.

They know they have done wrong in quite a few regards, and it is under their warranty now so they can either fix everything (which would exceed the value of the car) or they can “make it right with me.”

I’m just trying to get an idea what “right with me” should look like. Appreciate the outside opinions.

I’m thinking it might be one of those estimated 100,000 Hurricane Sandy flood vehicles that disappeared to someplace “off the grid”. But that suspicion’s only value is as a curiosity.

The difference in retail value for the Matrix is about $900 between the 2003 and 2004 model. Assume that if they give you a refund, it might be as much as $900 less than what you paid. Don’t be afraid to take another car in even trade if you can take it to a mechanic you trust for a pre-purchase inspection. If it checks out, you might consider making the trade if the car is otherwise acceptable. Since you have a written guarantee, all the repairs might be worth several thousand dollars. It could be worth it to the dealer to make the trade. When you go back to them, make sure you have that long laundry list of work that they need to do and lay it on them. Then tell them you want it fixed, replaced with a car that you find acceptable, or get the refund.

The dealer is considered an expert in court, but you are not. If they end up in court over this, I don’t think they would have a good day.

Thank you.
Full list:
E-brake cables worn visibly through, and they had checked them at my request bec. of non-functioning e-brake and said the ebrake was fine. It’s not.

There is oil visible on outside of engine. Head gasket suspected broken (I don’t know right terms.)
The heat shield is rusting off the gas tank, bent and broken.
The holes in the rocker panel are 6" long near the driver seat, and explain why I’ve been thinking I smell exhaust.
The subframe is brittle, with holes.

Oh, and they inspected the vehicle and passed it, which is pretty questionable or worse.

We shall see.

“I’m thinking it might be one of those estimated 100,000 Hurricane Sandy flood vehicles that disappeared to someplace “off the grid”.”

+1 to mountainbike’s comment.

When there is evidence of such extensive rust damage, the spectre of Hurricane Sandy flood vehicles definitely comes to mind.

This article from The NY Times speaks about both the number of vehicles that were severely damaged in that natural disaster and the possibilities for those vehicles being resold as pristine ones:

And, what could potentially be of help is this searchable database of flood-damaged cars that was compiled by the NJ Attorney General’s office:

If, by chance, you find your vehicle in that database, I believe that you have an excellent basis for a Consumer Fraud complaint.

They inspected the car and passed it. I think he has excellent basis for a fraud complaint anyway. My guess is that an investigation into their business practices would be revealing.


If your state requires a safety inspection, this dealer messed up badly. You need to do something about it immediately for yourself and anyone else that wants to buy a car from them. What state do you live in? Someone here may know who you should contact.

I think a Matrix is basically a Corolla, so you should have a pretty good car there. All cars have a certain amount of subframe rust. It’s hard to tell how bad your is, without actually looking at it. The rocker panel problem can be fixed. A little welding is all that is needed. If the dealer is willing to fix it, I’d say let them have a go at it. I guess what I’m saying, you may have a case of buyer’s remorse and be over-estimating the severity of the problem.

If you simply don’t want the car any more – not the route I’d advise – but if you don’t want it, propose to the dealer a like-kind exchange. They take your Matrix, and you take another of their used cars of similar value. And split the transfer costs between you and the dealer.

it seems, from your description, that they are bold faced liars. insist on your money back and let it be known that you will broadcast this case far and wide if they don t agree, and that you will be contacting state officials and a lawyer as well as the media.

they may just pay up

I do know where to go in my state to file a complaint appropriately, and that may yet happen.

I appreciate the range of opinions here. I don’t really know cars, but I have learned a few things with this development.

It wasn’t in Sandy, but other events that have damaging results happen other places–I’m just not going to say everything here on the forum, as I’m trying to be kinda anonymous, but thanks for that thought. It’s not off base.

Which state do you live in? Some states have laws against selling unsafe vehicles although they’re in the minority.

One sticky area could be an “AS IS” disclaimer. If you signed one (you should have a copy if so) and depending upon how any warranty was spelled out it’s at least possible you have no recourse at all. It would all boil down to the wording on any warranty and that disclaimer.

The disclaimer should look like this.

If they inspected the vehicle and passed it when it should not have passed, which is probable, that is a problem for them with the laws of my state, and could be investigated. However, since that was some months ago, it might not stick.

But they are obligated to keep the vehicle “inspectable” and do needed repairs for another 2 months, and that may cost more than the car is worth, because I don’t know–but can you replace everything that is the subframe, etc? It’s not a spot of rust here and there.

My mechanic called it “tin”. I am basing everything off how the trusted mechanic was incensced, as he is not that type–would never be quick to criticize. He was aghast. THe car is unsafe.

Thanks again for moral support.

Since you won’t state what state your in I can only add that if by chance it is Virginia. All safety inspection related complaints go to the State Police, they run and oversee the safety inspection program.

Same with Maryland, and a safety inspection is required before the car can be registered. Rust related issues don’t crop up in a loupe of moths. They are years in the making.

Sorry that I’m not saying what state. It’s small. It snows here.

I do know which dept. to contact here, and so forth. The gap in my understanding is more related to how bad the car is–but I’ve got the general idea that it is likely “beyond repair”. The dealer’s mechanic, etc, will know much more than I do, but I know enough now to hold my own, I think.