Prre owned vechicle problem after purchase


My son purchased a pre owned vechicle. During the sale he noticed a mildew smell, and made mention of it to the sales person. The sales person said that it was because the car was just washed and it would go away after it dried. He purchased it a couple of days ago and the smell is terrible. Also we find that the car has been repainted, which there was no mention of that at the sale. What recourse does he have? as he wants to return the vechicle and but another one. Thanks, Ray


Most cars are sold “as-is” and recourse is limited to none. Check with your State’s Attorney General to see if there are any statutory provisions in your state that gives your son some recourse. If not, then I think in this case, there is an outside chance you could bring a legal claim against the dealer: Your son asked about the smell and was told it was because the car was just washed. If the sales person will “remember” telling him that, your son may have a claim, because if the sales person misrepresented the reason for the smell and your son relied on the sales person’s representation when he made his decision to purchase the car, the sales person may have committed fraud. Have you taken it back? What happened? If your son is willing to exchange the car for another vehicle of equal value AND with no additional money involved, the dealer may go for that. Best advice when buying a used car without warranty is to arrange for an independent mechanic to inspect it at the buyer’s expense before it is purchased. Any reputable dealer will allow that and if they don’t, go elsewhere.


First, make sure that the mildew smell is not just mildew in the air conditioner evaporator fins. My BMWs all have this problem, and it is just an artifact of the design of the evaporator. Some smell when the AC is on, others smell worse when the heater is on. A dealer will use hydrogen peroxide to kill the mildew, but you have to be very careful with that because it will rust or bleach everything it touches. Wurth sells a deodorizer that is specifically formulated to kill that mildew, but it is a bit expensive. I have used Lysol with good results. I remove the cabin filter, turn recirculation off, then turn the fan to high and liberally spray the deodorizer in the air inlet at the base of the windshield (outside the car). Switch the heater from heat to AC so it goes through everywhere. When I used Lysol, I preferred the baby powder scent ;-).

If there is a problem with the car, your recourse depends on what state you live in.

I used to work as a mechanic in California, and the little used car lots in town hated me. Cash-strapped working moms would come in with junkers that had been patched together and sold to them by unscrupulous car dealers. I had two weapons in my arsenal - 1) Was the car safe? 2) Had it legitimately passed its California Smog Test? Anyone with a dealer’s license cannot sell a car in California unless it is safe to drive (ignorance is not a defense), and no one can sell a car that has been fraudulently smog checked.

It was rare that I could not help someone who had been shafted by those shysters. In your case, however, if having been painted and having been wet are the only symptoms, you don’t have much of a case yet.


If your bill of sale does not state “As Is”, you probably have legal recourse. It sounds as if the car was in a flood. Try to get the dealer to swap you to another car, if possible. If not, sue him.


Just because a car has been repainted means nothing except they wanted to improve the appearance for the sale. Mildew could be cause from leak in windows, sun roof etc. or someone left the window open. On the other hand these could be evidence of a flood vehicle that someone was trying to peddle and possible fraud was committed. If fraud, then they’ll have to take the car back and will be in trouble. If not, unless they want to take the car back your son owns it.

I would recommend immediately taking it to have it inspected for evidence of it being in a flood. Check for water lines inside of doors, pull carpet up and check the floor and pad, etc. etc. Once you know that, you can go from there. Salesman are notorious for “puffing” their products and it is quite legal.


He probably has no recourse, especially if he signed an “AS IS” disclaimer (of which he should have a copy).
The lot who sold this car to him will willingly take it back in trade for another one but a lot of care should be used when the numbers are being juggled.


Puffing it is one thing, but outright lying about it is another. It sounds to me as though the salesman lied to you. If it was misrepresented, you do have recourse. Do check for flood evidence, ie mud. Another place you may find mud is in the covering for wire bundles. They can pressure wash inside the doors, but it’s darned hard to get the mud out of the wiring. Repainiting is not an issue. Granted it can hide a multitude of sins. If he didn’t notice the paint before the sale, he’ll just have to live with it.


Contact the dealer immediately and explain the problem. You may want to talk to the salesman first. If that doesn’t work, talk to the mamager. Be willing to trade for another car. If these don’t work, contact the State Attourey’s office to see if they can help. You may mention to the manager tht you will contact the State Attourney if your discussion with the dealership don’t pan out. Remember to be as calm as you are in this post. I know that I find it hard to remain calm, and that’s why I mention it.