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Moral question I need help with

Alright, this is going to get a bit complicated, so stay with me. I am the co-owner of a small business, and our business purchased a 2002 PT Cruiser with 66k miles for a very low price from a mutual friend who was leaving the country. No issues except for a faulty power-steering sensor that would trip the check engine light (which apparently is a common problem with PT Cruisers). We (myself and the other owner) purchased it with the intent of just reselling for a profit. We ended up selling it to the other owner’s cousin’s girlfriend. The cousin works for our company.

They drove the car about 3000 miles over the course of three weeks (did a 2000 mile road trip back home) and suddenly there was a problem with it about 2 days after they returned. All the coolant evacuated the radiator, but the reservoir was still full, and it overheated. They brought the car to a Wal-mart and they said it was either something wrong with the coolant system (duh) or a cracked head gasket. He gave them an unofficial verbal estimate of 800-4000 dollars for the repairs. I’m not sure if they even do taht kind of work at Wal-mart, but I’m assuming not, so I think he was just trying to get them a ball-park.

I told them they need to see a real mechanic (sorry Wal-mart) about the problem, and recommended the palce we go to for our company trucks. She wants us to give the money back less 500 dollars (paid 4k originally) so she can get a different car.

The way I see it, they may not have had the car for a very long period of time, but they still drove the thing 3000 miles. Even when I bought my used car from the dealer they only gave me a 2000 mile/4 week warranty, whichever came first. I don’t think we should give the money back, the company’s other owner (the buyer’s cousin) doesn’t think we should give the money back, and I don’t really think it is our issue. Are we crazy for thinking that? I mean, I feel bad and all, but I think I have been numbed to issues like these from being in the business world.

Let me know what your two cents are.

Thanks for reading.

The moral to this story is never sell a car to a family member, a friend or a employee / business associate…If you refuse their kind offer, you have a disgruntled employee which is always bad news…If you tell this person to take it to the chaplain, you might as well fire them because they will be a liability to your business after that…Stay out of the used car business…

You know, I knew that rule too, and yet chose to ignore it. Bad plan.

This was a reply to a post which has apparently been removed, disregard.

Well, I don’t think I’m quite that bad of a guy. At least I have the compassion to run it past some unrelated third parties before I make a final decision. Not really looking for compassion, looking for some constructive criticism and different viewpoints. “You’re a jerk, go away” doesn’t really help me out much, whether it is true or not.

Unless stated differently, all used car sales are as-is

Money is more important, you have decided. Previous post waiting moderation, yes you can be a heartless business person, and you are.

for the record, I saw the post in question, and agree with you. There’s nothing immoral about being in business.

And there’s nothing immoral about telling them that the car was used, driven for 3,000 miles without incident, and the maintenance and repair on it is not your responsibility.

What you really need to figure out is how your cousin/employee is going to react to your decision, and what if any influence that should have on it.

Ouch. Well, I’ll be sure to mark your opinion as me being in the wrong then.

Well, my plan was to at least pay for whatever diagnostics need to be done since he is related to the other owner, and I will just have to work from there. I think if it was anyone else I would leave it at “your car, your problem” though.

Selling used cars is fraught with potential disaster. I had one friend no matter what the car was his philosophy was there is an s for every seat, I am too honest and helpful I guess to be a successful businessman because whatever car I sold within a reasonable amount of time, I would say 6 months I helped fix on my time to have a happy customer, a customer that would say this guy will treat you well, and a customer who said I had a problem and he helped me. But then again I would know what has been done what needs to be done and inform the buyer of that info.

If she wants a warranty then she should buy a new car. She bought an 8 year old PT Cruiser; a comparatively low miles but still aged vehicle.

A vehicle does not instantly overheat and puke all of its coolant out. It’s a process that in the worst and fastest scenario (thermostat stuck closed) will require minutes, not a few seconds.
This vehicle has a temperature gauge so maybe you should ask them why they turned the radio up and ignored the gauge. Believe me, this is a very very common thing to do.
You could also ask them how many times in this 3k miles they raised the hood and actually checked anything at all.

Sorry, this one is on them all the way and you have done nothing wrong here.

To survive in todays business world, you MUST be heartless…Mr. Nice-guy filed for bankruptcy last year…

purchased a 2002 PT Cruiser with 66k miles for a very low price from a mutual friend who was leaving the country
We ended up selling it to the other owner’s cousin’s girlfriend. The cousin works for our company.
They drove the car about 3000 miles over the course of three weeks (did a 2000 mile road trip back home) and suddenly there was a problem with it about 2 days after they returned.

That is why you have an independant mechanic inspect the car, even if you are related to the guy you buy it from!

I would like to ask at what level of relationship would there be no question that you would take the car back? What I mean is, would you take it back if you sold it to a brother or sister? I would think you would answer “Yes” if this was the level of relationship that existed, but in this case the relationship is not any closer than a nameless individual that answered an add you placed and you did not knowingly sell a bad car.

Your post title made it clear you were seeking a moral answer not a answer based on business but in this case the moral answer and the business answer is the same since you only had a business type relationship with the buyer. You (I guess I mean “I”) will take a loss if it involves family but others it is strictly business.

A. Lemon laws may apply. Depends on what State you are in.
B. Buying a used PT Crusier with the goal of reselling it for a profit is a risky proposition to begin with.
C. Right or wrong, you should just suck it up and give them the money. It will prevent any strain on the relationships involved, and the $500 spread is a reasonable gesture by the other party.

As I see it from a purely business perspective, anyone who buys a vehicle that has been in service for 8-9 years, and then drives it for 3,000 miles cannot complain on a valid basis if that aged car has a mechanical problem after those 3,000 miles.

As was already said, nobody knows how careful the purchaser was regarding fluid checks during those 3k miles, and nobody knows how long the car’s temperature gauge was registering an overheat condition before the driver finally decided to pull the car to the side of the road.

In other words, the buyer is unrealistic to expect mechanical reliability from a car of this age with unknowns in its past as well as just prior to the breakdown.

However, everything changes when a friend, relative, neighbor, co-worker, or employee is involved. As you now realize, you should never have sold the car to someone in any of the above categories. Now, you and your partner have to consider whether it is worthwhile to court dissatisfaction with the relative/employee.

If I were you, I would bite the bullet and give this unrealistic crybaby her money back, minus the $500. Then, resolve never to repeat this bone-headed practice of selling a car (or anything else) to people in the categories listed above.

And, as to fixing the car, I assume that you know that Wal-Mart should be avoided for anything other than buying low-cost groceries and other products. The guys working in their automotive department might be wonderful people, but I have a hard time taking technical advice from people who have already lost their teeth by the age of 30.

Did you give the buyer any written warranty when you sold the car? Regardless of who buys it most used cars are sold “as is” and buyers should understand that. They could have had a mechanic do a pre-sale inspection, and choose not to.

After the sale they drove 3K miles. They also may have kept driving the car after signs of overheating, which can cause much more damage.

You are only responsible for any issues with car which were known to you and not disclosed to the buyer. Since you didn’t own the car long, it appears there were no known issues with it.

Sorry for the buyer’s troubles, but stories like this keep the new car mfg’rs in business. If you want a car with no worries and a warranty you buy a new car, not a used car.

All that said, this is an employee. If the employee/boss relation is good you may consider getting a proper estimate of the real problem and repair costs. If you want to bear 25% or 50% of the repair costs you can do so. If the employee/boss relationship isn’t worth much you really have no obligation to the buyer(s).

Just before I started high school in 1955, my dad bought a 1954 Buick from some friends who were going to Australia for a couple of years. They had bought this Buick as their retirement car and really liked it. We only had the Buick two days and the fuel pump failed near a little town about ten miles from our house. A friendly farmer towed us to his mechanic. My brother and I were warned not to say a word to the people we bought the car from about the fuel pump because my dad didn’t want to hurt their feelings. It turned out that this small town mechanic was excellent. My dad took our vehicles to him until he closed his shop.

I sold a car to a colleague seven years ago that I had maintained meticulously. The car was a ten year old Oldsmobile 88. My colleague had to replace a master cylinder and told everyone that I had sold him a lemon. I had replaced the master cylinder about a year before I sold the car, so I suppose the part was defective. I have decided from now on just to trade cars in and let the dealer be responsible.

We ended up selling it to the other owner’s cousin’s girlfriend.

A girlfriend of the owner’s cousin??
They’re not even engaged?! Tough noogies.

She wants us to give the money back less 500 dollars (paid 4k originally) so she can get a different car

I bet she does. Who wouldn’t want a sweet deal like that? That’s less than 17c a mile!
Seriously, used car purchases are hit or miss. The risk factor was there on an 8 year old car. No way I would assume that much liability after a month and 3000 miles…

I don’t think you owe her anything, and you are awfully nice to pay for any diagnostics. And the “are you a rat?” question cuts both ways. How dare you sell her an 8 year old car that develops problems after 3000 miles? How dare she blame you for the problems of a car that you never really drove?