There is certainly enough blame to spread around here.
The first owner should be blamed for failure to maintain the vehicle. He/she probably planned to trade it in or sell it within a short period of time, and thus felt that it was in his/her financial interests to skip maintenance. That does not make this person’s actions correct, but he/she was looking out for his/her financial interests, no matter how that might harm the next owner.
The dealership wanted to sell a car in order to make money, and it is clear that they did lie about the maintenance of the car. Unfortunately, their misrepresentation about maintenance was verbal, and they will probably deny having said that the car was maintained by them. In fact, they may claim that a lack of maintenance was the reason for the vehicle being sold “as-is”. Verbal, rather than written representations are going to be very hard for the OP to prove. Misrepresentation by the dealership is least immoral, and if proven, would be a violation of the law, but they were looking out for their own financial interests in these troubled times, and desperate people do desperate things, unfortunately.
The OP bought a car that she was told was being sold “as-is”. The OP also states that she never looked under the hood, and she never checked the oil during a three month period. She apparently also did not have the vehicle checked by her own mechanic, prior to sale.
While I cannot condone the actions of the first owner or the dealership, none of those actions would have impacted on the OP if she had looked under the hood and/or had the vehicle inspected prior to purchase, if she had checked the oil, and if she had given some thought to the implications of what “as-is” really meant. None of those omissions on her part make her a bad person, but surely she was not looking out adequately for her own financial interests.
Nobody is trying to make marieh feel bad, but it is important for her to realize that she could have prevented the damage that she suffered if she had exercised some prudence and perhaps some healthy skepticism prior to deciding to purchase this vehicle. There are people and merchants out there who will try to cheat you, but if you don’t take some simple, appropriate steps to protect yourself, then you allow yourself to be cheated.
It may be possible to prevail in Small Claims Court, but marieh also has to realize the limitation on the dollar amount that these courts will deal with. Even if she prevails, the limitations in her state may still result in her losing a substantial sum of money.
The lesson for everyone here is to follow the “rules” for buying a used car that I listed in my earlier post, and above all–Look out for your own financial interests. Everyone else involved in selling a car is doing that, and if a buyer does not look out for his/her own financial interests, then a situation like this can occur.
I sincerely wish marieh good luck in pursuing justice in this case.