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Lemon that's been driven a while?

Ok ok, I know that generally, when you’re used car shopping, if a title is branded lemon/manufacturer buyback, the safest thing is to RUN AWAY and look for a different used car.

But what about if you’re buying from someone who bought the lemon at auction after the manufacturer bought it back and repaired it? And what if this person has driven the lemon-branded car problem free for 3 years?

In this case I’m talking about a 2004 Ford Focus. The lemon problem was “crank but no start.” Ford bought the car back, then fixed it by replacing several major components (got this info straight from Ford). I also asked Ford for a warranty report and learned furthermore that after Ford repaired the crank-no-start and re-sold the car, the crank-no-start problem didn’t show up during the remainder of the warranty (15 months)… And the seller assures me that in the 20 months since the warranty expired, the car has not had that (or any other big) problem.

So… Is a lemon is a lemon is a lemon? Or is this car worth considering seriously if I can get it at, say, 60% of blue book value (since the problem hasn’t reappeared in like 35 months)? I’m feeling like I can get a good car at a really good price, simply because the title isn’t clean (even though the vehicle now is, or so it seems to me). Am I about to be suckered?

How many miles? What components were replaced? Anything can go wrong with any car at any time. 60% of minimum trade in I would seriously consider, what blue book value are you talking? Thinking whatever was wrong was fixed, but take that savings and put it into a car roadside assistance repair fund just in case.

Give Us A Price And Tell How Many Miles On It Now. I’d say It’s Probably O.K. And If Not You Could Make Lemonade.

The seller should give you permission to take the car to a mechanic and let you pay to have it checked out. Chances are that the “Crank but no start” was probably frustratingly intermittent, though. That will remain a little uncertain.


It’s about 39k on the miles (so low because Ford took two months to fix it, then nine to sell it–it was an untested buyback at that point remember–so it was effectively off the road for a year of its life back in 05-06).

I need to call Ford back about which components got replaced… I coulda swore I wrote it down but I can’t find it.

I was actually thinking 60% of the clean trade-in blue book value, which would put the price somewhere in the 4k range I think. The seller is a mechanic (it’s his wife’s car, not one he bought to re-sell) and one option I came up with was him doing any repairs for free for the first 90 days I own it… In this case I told him I would pay more than the 4k range. He seemed open to the possibility, tho a bit reluctant. So I guess I’m also wondering if this informal warranty thing’s a stupid/crazy idea too, given the price.

yeah, he already gave me permission to take it to another mechanic to check it out.

The the crank-no-start-problem seemed to happen at completely random times for the first owner (who only had the car for like 5 months), according to the warranty report.

It’s Sounding Good. How Come This Guy Isn’t Advertising To Get The Most Out Of It, Or Is He? How’d You Hear About It?

Make sure it wasn’t crashed and repaired.


You maybe able to buy the car at a good price. In a few years if you go to resell it, the price value will still be less due to the blemished title on the car. If it is truly fixed it can be a good car for you. Just don’t expect to sell it in a few years at normal book value, that won’t happen. You’ll able to buy low, but you’ll have to sell low too when you sell the car.

Is the KBB value for a dealer car or a private sale? There’s a $1600 difference in price. You also gave almost no information about the car. It isn’t possible to tell you if it’s a bargain unless we know what trim level, engine, transmission, and options are on the car.

If a manufacture bought back a crank no start then someone at the Dealer was looking for a new job. Just why was a crank no start allowed to turn into a buy back? I bet the manufacture was not so happy,how complex could this have been,probably was a repeated misdiagnosis at the Dealer.

Sorry. 04 Focus Wagon SE. 2.0 L engine, automatic trans. Standard options. The KBB value for this car in excellent condition, private sale is 6550. I was thinking about 60% of this value would be worth it given the problems I’d have with resale what with the branded title, so 4000.

The car has a few minor scratches, and the tires only have about a season left in them though. Everything is in working order, no strange noises on the test drive.

Is 4000 reasonable? Would any higher be reasonable?

He is advertising, but at above the blue book price for excellent condition/private party, so I don’t think he’s getting many serious inquiries. And in fact he claimed he didn’t know about the title problem until I told him. Which, you know, seemed pretty fishy to me… But he did seem genuinely taken aback (unless he’s a good actor) and started dropping the price once I have him the warranty report from Ford.

Yeah, the VIN check indicated the vehicle was never in an accident.

First thing I thought of after reading this post was a chronic misdiagnosis but looks like oldschool has covered that base. I agree.

Just because a car has been branded a Lemon does not mean that it actually is one.

Most states I believe have 3 tries, in a certain amount of time, on a brand new vehicle to fix the problem. After those 3 tries, the owner can request a buyback.

I Wouldn’t Trust A VIN Check. Somebody Has To Physically Inspect For This.


Not really to many chances to get it right. How many people out there have had to take there car back 3 times for the same problem to a independant on their older car? quite a few I bet. Think about all those oil leaks it takes multiple visits to fix or those disc brakes squealing,how many have been back 3 times for that?

“Is 4000 reasonable? Would any higher be reasonable?”

Yes and yes.

Edmunds quotes a price of $6800 for a private party sale on this car with no options (only standard equipment). $4000 is about 60% of their value, too. If it passes your mechanic’s evaluation, I’d buy it. I think that Ford, or any other manufacturer, wants to sell reliable cars, and will work to fix them correctly even after the take-back. They already made one customer unhappy; why make more angry?

“…probably was a repeated misdiagnosis at the Dealer.”

That doesn’t surprise me. We bought a Taurus many years ago that sat on the lot for about 9 months. The AC didn’t work after a few months. I took it in and tried to tell them about the time on the lot. I suspected dried seals in the compressor since it probably wasn’t run much. They ignored my suggestion and tried some stuff but none of it worked. They decided to replace the clutch on about the 3rd try and must have gotten oil or grease on the clutch plate. The compressor squealed terribly when it was engaged. Back it went. They blew the fix 6 times and then I contacted Ford to request replacement under the MD lemon law. I went back a 7th time. The dealer rep’s eyes got as big as saucers when he looked at my record on the computer. Apparently Ford set the return in motion. They replaced the compressor entirely and that solved the problem. If they’d just done that the first (second, third…) time, I might have gone back to them. BTW, they are the biggest dealer in the Mid-Atlantic; maybe the whole east coast - and still in business.

That’s why I said brand new, not used.
Their words, not mine.