Hey everyone - I just sold a 2005 Subaru that has around 100k miles on it. I have not had the timing belt replaced and I know it should be done ASAP, as from what I understand, if that goes, the car is toast.
A few people came to look at the car and all of them were savvy enough to ask if the belt had been replaced. (they also all gave me offers within $200-$300 of the price I was looking to get). Finally, a very nice woman came, looked at the car, drove it, and offered me the price I was looking for. She didn’t even open the hood. She did ask me if I knew if anything was wrong with the car, and I said no - which technically is true. It just has some scheduled maintenance coming up.
Now, I am an honest and ethical guy, and I am feeling guilty - that I should have told her about the belt needing to be replaced. I don’t think that I ripped her off at all, because the people who knew about the belt were willing to pay around the same price. I just don’t want her to get screwed and have the car break down.
Is it my responsibility to volunteer that information? I didn’t hide anything about the car - gave her all of the service records, and would have let her take it to a mechanic to check out, etc if she asked - but she didn’t. She technically bought the car in “as is” condition.
Am I beating myself up over this, or should I feel confident that this was an ethical transaction? I would like to get it off my chest, but I think if I call her up at this point and tell her it should have around $800 of work, she will be pissed.
Also, on a related question, I’m wondering what are the chances that belt will actually go?
chances are good that the belt will go. not only would that cost her a lot of money, it would waste resources fixing something that isn’t broken.
i feel that you really can’t tell if the other shoppers would have paid your price, so that is not factual. also you should have volunteered that info.
you can certainly find a subtle way to get that info to her via just clarifying the maint records with her to ensure she has the info. at least she would be able to make a decision about the topic ahead of a breakdown. …and you would sleep better at night.
A good recommendation for any buyer is to have a mechanic look the car over, money well spent. They would catch the maintenance on the belt. No way to tell when a belt will go, some go sooner some go later. Do you tell the buyer that the oil will need changed in 2 months, or the tires only have a year left on them? Might need new plugs? Where do you draw the line? It is a used car with 100K on it. No matter how well it was treated it will need work. How nice is she? Maybe you want to give her a call and let her know about the belt over drinks
I wouldn’t obsess over it. Usually belts last a lot longer than the recommended replacement interval. The belt is unlikely to break in the next year or so, IMHO.
Furthermore, as a used car buyer, it’s her responsiblity to ask basic questions about the car’s maintenance and to have it looked over first by a mechanic, neither of which she did. Amd now that she owns it, the first thing she should do is take it to a mechanic for a checkout and a replacement of fluids, etc. Any decent mechanic who knows she just bought should ask her whether the timing belt has been changed, and if she doesn’t know, recommend at least inspecting it.
It’s also her responsibility to read the owners manual, where it’s prominently noted that the timing belt needs periodic changing. And you gave her your service records, which indicate the belt has not been changed yet.
You have nothing to feel bad about.
@gdawgs, “chances are good the belt will go?” Well, sure, chances are 100% that the belt will go, eventually. The question is when, and whose responsibility it is.
The belt is not going to go tomorrow, next week, next month, probably not even this entire year. She bought a used car. It’s her job to maintain it now. I’m a very honest, conscientious guy, but if I sell a car and the timing belt breaks next year, that’s the buyer’s fault, not mine.
Thanks everyone. She paid for the car already and is going to pick it up in a few days. When she picks it up, I think I’m just going to tell her that our mechanic recommended we have some scheduled maintenance coming up at 105k miles, so she may want to check it out.
I do feel confident about the price we got, even taking into account that it needs the belt. One of the other potential buyers offered me only $200 less than her on the spot, and he was knowledgeable about cars and spend a good while looking under the hood, etc. and knew about the belt.
I personally would never buy a used car without having a mechanic first take a look at it. I even did this with an Accord I bought from a dealer. The dealer sent a guy with me to my mechanic to wait while he inspected it.
I guess some consumers are just ignorant, and I know it’s not my responsibility to educate her - but I do feel bad. It’s more of a karma thing.
That’s fine, just show her the page in the owner’s manual where it recommends a belt change at 105k.
You have no legal obligation to tell her anything. It’s her responsibility to do homework or have an inspection done pre-purchase.
That being said, I would have mentioned the belt being due for replacement simply because it would have bothered me (a lot) if a mechanically naive person drove off and the belt broke the next day.
As to when the belt may break it’s a coin flip. It may break by the time this is read or never. That belt is 11 years old and has been on borrowed time for quite a while.
It could also be put like this. Assume you know nothing about cars, purchased one with no mention of a timing belt, and it broke the next day.
Would you look at it as a “shoulda done my homework, one of those things” incident or would you be upset with the seller for not letting you know the job had never been done?
If the roles were reversed, would you want the seller to tell you the timing belt needs changing?
It’s so hard for me to to tell how I would feel if the roles were reversed - because I would never put myself in that situation as a buyer. I know next to nothing about cars - which i why I would have a mechanic inspect it before buying. If the seller wouldn’t let me have it inspected - I wouldn’t buy it. This person bought the car without even popping the hood.
So, next question - for the people who think I should have volunteered the information. If I had to do it again, I probably would have told her - because it would have saved me from this guilt. But, now that it’s too late for that, and she already purchased it, what would you do? If I call her up now and tell her about it, she will probably not be happy.
Don’t call her up. When she comes to pick up the car, just show her the owner’s manual page with the maintenance chart showing the recommended belt replacement interval, and tell her to be sure not to forget about it when 105k rolls around.
She’ll probably thank you since she apparently knows/cares nothing about maintenance.
Don't call her up. When she comes to pick up the car, just show her the owner's manual page with the maintenance chart showing the recommended belt replacement interval, and tell her to be sure not to forget about it when 105k rolls around.
She’ll probably thank you since she apparently knows/cares nothing about maintenance.
Yeah, that’s probably what I’ll do. It’s the best I can do at this point to warn her about it and clear my conscientious a little bit. Looking back now, I really wish I told her - just so I could have a clear head about it.
Here’s a lawyer’s column on what to do when selling a car. Might help.
I’d put all the service records and invoices into a well organized file folder and turn it over to the new buyer. Point out the name and location of your mechanic as the place that knows the car. In that discussion you can tell her that the next scheduled service is a “major” one an includes a timing belt.
My sense is you feel this is a nice person. Listen to your conscience and “do the right thing”. Since she has not picked up the car you can still have a discussion. At worst she refuses the car and you sell it to someone else.
First, I applaud you for having the same level of guilt I do when delving into situations like this. The last car I sold came with every single receipt over 10 years of ownership put neatly in a folder and she didn’t even want to test drive the car! If the Subie is at 100k and the belt is due at 105k then alerting her to the upcoming advisable work would be A nice gesture. Caveat emptor with a nudge is ethical, I think, especially for those not mechanically inclined.
Not being a mechanic, I AM aware that there are two kinds of engines; those that self-destruct when the timing belt breaks and those that just stop and make you call AAA. Not sure what Subaru does. Bring back timing chains!
You should specifically tell her the belt and other service should be changed soon. If it were me I would make a written list of what needs to be done to give her too. Since she does not appear to have much car knowledge, I think it needs to be re-emphasized. Would you rather have her a little irritated now at the maintenance expense, or really irritated if the belt goes and the engine is ruined. Part of the reason I really try to stay out of the used car business.
Interestingly, the belt on my old Acura was changed at about 45K under warranty by the dealer. When I traded at about 60K, I tried to emphasize to the dealer that the belt had been changed and wouldn’t need to be done for close to 100K miles. I just got the glazed eyes look, like big deal and had no intention of ever informing a new buyer of the service history.
Did you tell her it needs the oil changed in X miles?
Did you tell her it needs the coolant replaced in Y miles?
What about brake fluid, etc, etc, etc.
These are maintenance items too, just like the belt.
All I would tell her is to make sure not to forget it has the 105k mile maintenance coming up and hope you like the car as much as we did…have a nice day!
What @TwinTurbo said. I wouldn’t worry about future maintenance, that’s the buyer’s full responsibility.
Ok, change my “you should” to “I would”. I would tell her even if it is not expected or necessary and her problem.
“You should specifically tell her the belt and other service should be changed soon. If it were me I would make a written list of what needs to be done to give her too. Since she does not appear to have much car knowledge, I think it needs to be re-emphasized.”
Just because somebody is unsophisticated regarding cars and their maintenance, that is no reason to…conveniently forget…to emphasize something as important (and potentially costly) as a timing belt.
If I “forgot” to tell a car buyer about something as important as this issue, I would have a very hard time sleeping. Perhaps the OP and others feel differently, but that is my personal take on the ethics involved in this matter.