My options after buying a troubled high mileage Toyota Rav 4?

I bought a 2008 Toyota Rav 4 with about 175,000 miles in Texas from a dealership that sells new and used cars. I bought this vehicle on an “as is basis” with no warranty. The car was inspected by an independent garage before the purchase. Everything was found to be in working condition. The dealership said the car has been checked and would pass state inspection.

I drove the Rav4 about 60 miles from the dealer immediately after purchase. The check engine light, the VSC light, and the slip indicator light turned on. The diagnostic system shows the following codes:

P0420 - Catalyst system efficiency low.
C1201 - Engine control system (ECM) Malfunction - ECM is not able to work with the Electronic Stability Control System and Anti-lock Braking System.

I have tried to contact the dealer. There is no response yet during this holiday weekend.

What are my options at this point given that I bought this vehicle on an as is basis? Is the dealer responsible in any way for selling what appears to be a defective vehicle that cannot pass state inspection? Is cancelling the car payment an option open to me?

You need to contact someone in the TX AG’s office for a definitive answer. In most cases once you sign an “AS IS” form this means you own the car; warts and all.
I’m reasonably sure TX is the same as OK which means you own it no matter what the dealer says. Even if they lie through their teeth.

I would not consider this a defective vehicle. It’s an aged, high miles vehicle which you drove for 60 miles before the problem surfaced. Odds are the dealer put no more than a few miles on it.
Any warranty (if at all) will be spelled out on a form like this. Failure to make payments will lead to a repossession, black mark on credit report, and a potential deficiency judgement is court.


Here in CA, it is the seller’s responsibility to smog an older used car before selling. It applies to private sales and dealer, unless you sign a waiver. I think in CT the same applied to the car inspection. You have to see what the TX law is for a used car. If it was on the dealer to have the car inspected, then you can maybe work something out with them.
Otherwise you own the car and its problems. You should get an estimate on repairs and see if the dealer will help. Nowadays, bad reviews on yelp and similar sites is more of a threat than a lawsuit. Just be nice with them.

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The state inspection is a safety inspection, I don’t believe the vehicle would fail because of a check engine light.

Some counties require an emission test, that is not a state inspection, emission tests are require by region.

In my state the seller, dealer or private is responsible for missing emissions equipment, I doubt this would apply in your case.

You can sell the vehicle, drive the vehicle if an emission test is not required or repair the vehicle. Repairing an old vehicle to continue use is rather common.

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The vehicle was sold by a dealer in a county that does Not require emissions testing. I live in a county that Requires emissions testing.

Options are usually nothing from the dealer because “as is” means that the dealer only washes it before selling and it could mean “junker.” If they don’t dare to sell it with a warrantee, most people should walk away from it.

One idea, someone may have figured out a way to modify the ECM to prevent a known problem from showing up while the car was on the lot for test drives, but eventually the work-a-round fails, resulting in the warning lights and diagnostic codes you experienced. It’s also possible there is no subterfuge involved, this is all a coincidence, and whatever the problem is just happened to occur on your drive home.

Did the shop that performed the pre-purchase inspection verify there were no incomplete monitors (emissions self-tests) pending? It would be unusual if that wasn’t part of a pre-purchase inspection.

In the way of perspective, some problems are bound to crop up in the 175k mile range. I guess if this happened to me I wouldn’t lose much sleep about it. Instead I’d focus on doing what it takes to get the vehicle in daily-use drivable condition. Ask your shop if it is possible & safe to defer repairs to the ESCS and Anti-lock braking system and the ECM communication between them. If so, then the only critical problem is the p0420. Since your Rav 4 is required to pass emissions, you’ll have to get that fixed at some point. The fix may not require anything beyond installing a new cat. Here in Calif you wouldn’t be able to get license plates until the p0420 is fixed, but you may have more flexibility in Tx.

Unless you or your shop can prove the vehicle’s emissions system and associated diagnostic software was purposely tampered with, I doubt you have any recourse. Comes w/the territory with high mileage vehicles.

Re: Cancelling the check. Suggest to not do that.

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Agree. The only issue in the price in the current market. One does not get much of a car even for $10,000. With supply of new cars tight, junk car market is thriving. And all cars below $15,000 are unlikely to come with any warranty since they are likely over 100,000 miles old.

Thanks much for your detailed reply and suggestions. Since I bought the car in a county that does not have emission testing requirements (only 17 of the 200+ counties in TX do), the inspection shop likely did not test the vehicle at all from an emissions perspective. However, why they did not diagnose the ECM or ABS issues could be an issue. Also, the selling dealership knew where I was taking this car for inspection in this small town.

I doubt it

The car was sold by a dealer in a county that doesn’t require emissions inspections

It’s simple . . . imo

The customer cleared the codes and traded in the car

The dealer didn’t have the car long enough for the cat monitor to run to completion

And the shop that did the pre-purchase inspection probably didn’t look at the readiness monitor status

My guess . . . there were no warning lights or current codes at the time the shop performing the pre-purchase inspection had the vehicle

that was quite possibly not a coincidence, and it might be the case that the selling dealer knowingly cleared all the fault codes, knowing it would be a few days before the check engine light illuminated, and they also knew the shop performing the pre-purchase inspection would declare the car “good to go”

I suspect either the original owner or the selling dealer cleared the fault codes

But you bought the car as-is . . . and what’s done is done

You won’t be able to prove anything, anyways

My advice . . . fix the car and enjoy it


This ABS fault is only a notice that an engine ECU fault exists, in this case P0420 and stability control is temporarily disabled. No ABS repairs are needed, when the engine ECU fault is corrected or erased, the ABS fault will go away.

If the vehicle battery went dead before or after the dealer acquired the vehicle, the faults would have been erased. By the time the car was place on the sales lot, the sales staff would not know of the problem.


When a sales person tells you something and it’s not in writing, it is not “lying” it’s “puffing” and you have no legal recourse in almost all cases…

“Puffing is a term in commercial law which means to convey an overstated belief about some good or service to a prospective buyer with the goal of making a sale of that good or service.”

But I have to ask, did you take it out for a road test or did you just drive it around the block? As you wrote, it had 175k miles on it so a “LONG” test drive would not have depreciated it at all. You should have pulled a “Kramer” (Seinfeld TV Show, when Kramer took a car out for a test drive…).

The independent inspection was smart, too bad these issues did not show up.

Being sold AS-IS is one thing, but being sold as “road worthy” is something else and perhaps you have some legal recourse there…

While some States may have specific requirements for specific transactions, generally it comes down to the specific State laws and specific written language in your specific contract.

For example, Maryland requires that all cars sold by a Dealer must pass the Maryland Safety Inspection and the State Police offer a free Safety Inspection for recently purchased vehicles when the buyer suspects the Inspection was incomplete or fradulent. For a more complete discussion of the Maryland process see Car Should Not Have Passed Maryland Safety Inspection - Whitney, LLP

Whether Texas has similar requlations and your problems fit into this category is something you’ll have to research.

I never watched that show so I have no idea what that means .

Guess each state has their own rules. In MA, NH and NY emission testing is STATE mandate. Makes no difference what county you live in.

Google it, the candy bar scene is hilarious…

Any case; Jerry is in the market to buy a new car an George thinks he’s the best defense against Jerry getting ripped off. But it’s Kramer who tells the salesman that he makes the car buying decisions for Jerry and demands a Test Drive.

(Back Story: Kramer drives his own car until it’s almost out of gas then he always borrows Jerry’s car so he does not have to buy gas…)

Back to the Test Drive: So they take it out for a test drive and decides to test the limits of the gas tank, and they keep driving, after the gas needle drops below “E” and Kramer and the salesman are ecstatic with all the mileage they get on Empty and they liken their adventure to “Thelma and Louise…”. They even stop at a gas station, not to buy gas, but to get drinks… and they are off again. With the dealership in sight, Kramer drives right on past. Kramer and the salesman clasp hands (just like Thelma and Louise did right before they drove off the cliff) and they keep going and going, long into the night, that is until the car finally runs out of gas…

With the car out of gas and dead to the world, Kramer tells the salesman he does not want the car and gets out without even taking the salesman card…

I’m familiar with the term “puffing”. OK passed a law forbidding bait and switch but the law allows puffing so the law was just another photo op event with no teeth in it.

Here’s a cut and paste from the Texas AG site…and if your signature is on a copy of the form I pasted earlier and that form states “No warranty” then as I said; the car is yours warts and all.

Warranties and Insurance

Get all promises about service and guarantees in writing in the contract and in the final copy of the buyer’s guide. If you were promised something but it is not in writing, do not sign. If the seller offers a warranty, it must be in writing for it to be valid.

All used car dealers are required by federal law to tell buyers whether a used car is being sold with or without a warranty. Dealers must clearly display this information on a side window of each used car. This buyer’s guide, or window form, should state either:

"AS IS" -- the vehicle does not have a warranty and the seller is under no obligation for repairs; or
"WARRANTY" -- the vehicle has a warranty, and the window form must list exactly what parts and services are covered and for how long.

I did not watch it then and I am not going to now .

Checking that the computer’s readiness monitors are all complete is the first task towards that end. Suggest in the future when buying a used car to specifically ask that be part of any pre-purchase inspection. Readiness monitors incomplete is an indication there may be a lurking drivetrain problem of some sort, and not necessarily confined to emissions-testing.

It’s reasonable for the car’s owner (the dealership) to want to know where a potential buyer plans to take it for an inspection. While collusion is possible, seems unlikely, and I doubt there’s anything you could have done about it anyway.