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Help, dealer sold me a car that can't pass inspection!

A couple weeks ago, I stupidly bought a used car from a local dealer here in Philadelphia without taking it to my mechanic first. I hadn’t eaten and I get low blood sugar, but that’s no excuse. Anyway, the inspection sticker on the car expires at the end of December so I took it in today. Not only did the car not pass, there is no way it will ever pass. The entire body is rusted out under the seats, so the seat belts are attached to rust. The fuel lines are rusted out and leaking. The ball joints are bad. It would cost over $2,000 to have a chance of passing. It’s a 1990 Pathfinder I bought for $1,300 so obviously that is out of the question. Another used car dealer told me that even for an as-is car, a dealer can’t sell an unsafe vehicle. Anybody know?

I think you’re toast. A look at the Pennsylvania statute on used cars shows that:

There is no Lemon Law on used vehicles.

If a used car is sold WITHOUT an “AS IS” disclaimer then it has an implied warranty that may be applicable.

If a used car is sold WITH an “AS IS” disclaimer then you have no recourse.
If you signed this disclaimer you should have a copy of it in your possession and it’s game over. With rust that bad it’s not worth fixing so put it on Craigslist for parts and maybe you’ll get some of your money back.

"Help, dealer sold me a car that can’t pass inspection!"
“Help, I Chose To Buy a car that can’t pass inspection!”


Get a written report on the car’s condition from the inspection garage. It should be itemized with all the reasons the car won’t pass inspection. Then take the car back to the dealer with you sale documents showing you just purchased the car recently. There is no lemon law in PA but the dealer likely represented the car in better shape than it is. Go back in your memory and make notes on whatever the sales rep and manager said about the car’s condition; ie “the brake pads are fine so it will pass inspection” for example.

Be specific in what you want. A full refund and take the car back? Several hundred dollars off the price because of the car’s condition? Have the seller repair the car and inspected so it has a pass sticker? If the seller simply tells you to take a walk and will do nothing, then tell them you are taking the matter up with a lawyer.

You might not get any action from the seller, but it is worth a try to see if the seller values his reputation enough to satisfy a customer. Rust in a 20 year old car isn’t unusual especially in the northeastern US where roads are salted in the winter. A mistake not to get that independent inspection on this one before the sale.

Check with the AG’s office. I know in some states a dealer can NOT sell you a car that won’t pass inspection…even if sold “AS IS”. There may NOT be a warranty, but it MUST pass inspection. I’m not sure about PA.

In the state of NH, and I suspect in many other states, any used vehicle sold is automatically defined by the law as being “as-is” unless otherwise stated in writing. Used car purchase lawsuits were so prolific years ago that statutes were created to minimize them by putting the responsibility solely on the shoulders of the buyer. The only way a buyer in NH can hope to prevail and get awarded damages is if he/she can prove fraud, and that’s extremely tough to do. Crooks never put their crooked ways in writing.

I would go to the dealer and say I have the local 7on your side tv program or whatever willing to look at this problem. Can we work out the problem that you sold me a vehicle that I cannot use or do I contact the tv reporter that said try and work with the dealer and let us know the result, and if that doesn’t work we will investigate and put it on the air? Maybe the TV reporter will or not pick it up but you got hosed and deceived and you do not have to play fair anymore.

Dealers generally follow the law because it’s way too easy to get into trouble on car sales. If the OP is holding a copy of a standard “AS IS” form which they signed at the time of purchase then they have no claim.
These forms came into being some decades back with some push by the U.S. Congress if I remember correctly.

During the turmoil of completing a car deal many people sign that “AS IS” form without even thinking twice about it even though they know full well what it means at the time.

OK, I understand what you are saying. I have sold a few used cars, even one with a 1.5 year left on transferable warranty that I transferred to the new owner, but still wrote as is on the sales receipt. But if you can boil it down to people defending their reputation as in the previous post… it is not a legal but a practical issue for the sales lot.

Don’t contact the dealer at all until you understand the law concerning the sale of a car that won’t pass inspection. In Maryland, they can’t do that. It may be the same in PA, and I suspect that it is. If you want to start the ball rolling tonight, contact the State Police. They may have some knowledge of the code. Once you know where you stand legally, contact the dealer. Of course, if what they did is illegal, the State Police might get there first. In MD, the state police monitor state inspection stores, and these annual safety inspections may fall under your Statie’s jurisdiction, too.

Or tomorrow, contact PennDOT and explain the problem and see if they can offer advice. If the first person you talk to can’t give you the information you need, ask them to transfer the call to someone that an answer your questions. They may refer you to the Attorney General’s office.

My point is not about writing an “AS IS” disclaimer on a sales receipt and that sort of thing. It’s about a bona fide official AS IS form required by law and which states there is a 90 day warranty, 30 day, or no warranty at all. The customer signs that form to acknowledge the terms and that’s the final word.

The info I mentioned above was pulled from a site about the PA statutes on used car sales.

OK has had this policy for decades. A dealer can tell someone an engine is like brand new with zero problems and if it blows up 40 yards after leaving the lot the dealer is not responsible if the buyer signs that form.

The OP could fill in the blank about whether they signed such a form or not and what that form states.

I think I am with Turbo on this one. A reputable dealer would not sell a car like that but just send it to the crusher. This is not about an As is Warranty but there is an implied warranty of fitness which this would not meet. First step would be to go back to the dealer with the list of the problems to either take the car back or fix. If not, sell it as a repairable or for parts for a few hundred or whatever. The difference is your loss or damage. Then just pay the $25 filing fee or whatever it is and go to small claims court to recover your damage. A normal judge would not allow the dealer to sell a car like that and will either award the damages or split it. You may end up eating a few hundred but lesson learned.

You’re not under 18 are you where it is illegal to contract with a minor? That would be the easy way.

Directly from PA’s DMV web site…

Philadelphia Lemon Law
If you live in Philadelphia and purchase a used car there you are covered under the Philadelphia Used Car Lemon Law. Under this law a used car purchaser has up to 72 hours from the time he or she purchases the used car to have it inspected by a mechanic. If a major structural defect is found or the car is unable to pass safety or emissions inspections the buyer can either return it for repair or get a full refund so long as the car is returned within 72 hours from the time it was purchased.

Not all states have this law. I know NY use to have this type of law…And it did NOT apply to private sellers…MA use to have a law like this also…and they would try to get around it by selling the cars through seller agents who posed as private sellers…but who actually worked for the dealers. They would advertise on Craigslist and then agree to meet at their house. They would represent themselves as the owner but if you did a title search you’d see that they only legally owned the vehicle for about 3 days.

If you can prove that the dealer sold you a car vehicle that is unsafe, you could probably sue under general liability laws. You would need a lawyer to advise you on this and the hard part would be proving that the dealer knew it was unsafe.

The part I am having trouble with is the rust under the seats. If it is that rusted out under there, then there should be a lot of body rust, especially around the wheel wells. When I say a lot, I mean fenders flapping in the wind and about to fall off type rust. If it had that much rust, why would anyone spend $1300 for it.

If you find that the body has had extensive repairs, which would have cost more than the $1300 you paid for it, then someone knew how unsafe the vehicle was and that person could be held accountable under general liability laws.

If the body has not had extensive repairs, then I wonder about the inspection station. Do they have an ulterior motive for telling you this. Are they making a low ball offer to take this off your hands? Did they tell you that the vehicle was too unsafe to leave their lot? Do you have the vehicle? If you do, go to another station and get a second opinion.

It’s a 21 year old $1300 vehicle…(actually, it’s a $300 vehicle)…

Take it back to the dealer with your lament and get something that will pass the state inspection. In fact, demand a FRESH inspection sticker, which even the sleazyest used car dealers somehow manage to do…

" . . . I stupidly bought a used car . . . "
Correct. How In The World Or Why In The World Could One Reasonably Expect A Dealer Or An Individual To Sell A Car For Just Above Crushing Value ($1300) That Is Ready To Pass A State Inspection ?

We don’t have state inspections (or any inspections), but any car for less than a few thousand has about a 99% chance of being a total piece of __________ (fill in blank).

Even the purchaser says this was a stupid idea !
It was probably $1300 well spent. That wasted money ($1300 - reselling or crushing) has educational value that will probably save thousands more in the long run.

Is it just me ? Sorry, but personal responsibility is a personal responsibility. We just can’t keep coming up with ways to protect adults from making stupid decisions. It’s all part of a learning curve on the way to becoming responsible.


In many states (PA seems to be one of them)…a dealer can NOT sell a vehicle if it won’t pass inspection. If it’s that far gone then the dealer either has to fix it before selling or junk it. In this case the dealer is just trying to unload it on the first sucker that comes along. Is the buyer a little stupid??? Probably…Is the dealer a little sleazy…DEFINITELY.

The truck is actually in pretty good shape, but these Nissans apparently had an issue with rust under the seats and only inder the seats. It’s too bad, because with 120K, it could probably run another 10 years. It really runs great.

The truck is actually in pretty good shape, but these Nissans apparently had an issue with rust under the seats and only inder the seats.

I owned a 1990 Pathfinder…and didn’t have this issue. The ONLY rust I had were around where the spare tire attached to the back of the truck. Started bubbling after 300k miles. The floor pan was fine.

Where Does One Draw The Line ?
"A couple weeks ago, I stupidly bought a used car . . . "
How Much Time Does One Have To Seek A Remedy ?

The law has to be in black and white. It must says whether or not a car can be sold in this condition. It also must say how long a buyer has to get a refund or a remedy.
What does it say ?

How much time, really, is " a couple weeks ago, " anyhow ?

There has to be some protection for seller, too, right ? A $1300 car that’s “good to go” could be a 2 ton paper weight after a couple of weeks.

You mean there are still buyers out there who don’t know that some dealers are a little sleazy ? I consider all dealers to be a little sleazy (either on purpose or by being uninformed), until proven otherwise.