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Purchased a lemon


I purchased a 2002 Toyota Hybrid from someone last week. At the time of purchased he told me that his wife had been the sole owner of the car and was selling it because they needed a minivan. I bought the car for $5200. I had him sign an agreement stating that if any problems arose in a one months time that he would be responsible for repairs. Well, the check engine light came on the following day. I called the seller but his phone number was disconnected. I took the car Toyota to get it inspected and was told the transaxle (transmissions for Hybrids) needs to be replaced which will cost close to $5000. I obtained the vehicle information from the DMV. Its turns out that he was not the original owner. He purchased the car two weeks ago from the original owners who had informed him (I spoke with them this week) of the transmission issue and therefore, sold it to him for $3500.

I obtained his address from DMV and plan on either sending him a letter of complaint or going to speak with him directly. I also plan on fling a police report.

My questions

What should I do if he refuses to pay?

What should I do if I dont reach him?

And finally Should I just call this a lost and get rid of this car rather than repair it? (I found a mechanic who will do the job for $2200 with a 6 months warranty).

Thanks in advance for your responses.

you did not purchase a lemon…unfortunately for you this is why you do research prior to purchasing a used vehicle…certainly the seller did not disclose prior information and whether or not you can hold him to the agreement will be a matter for a lawyer to determine…hope you get the seller!

Caveat Emptor

That’s a shame and a scam. As you now realize, all this checking should have been done prior to the purchase, not afterward. It’s probably going to be cheaper and less frustrating to pay $2200 more or throw a used transaxle in there. Check on the availability of a waranteed, used assembly.

I’ll bet that since you were “once bitten”, you are now “twice shy”. You probably won’t be making this mistake again.


Stick to the letter campaign,these things easily get out of hand. What code do you get? can the car not be driven normaly or safely or registered (because of the light?) What are your States laws in regards to private sales that cant be registered due to check engine lights? Is this a check engine or a transmission warning light?

Thanks CSA,

I did ask to take it to a mechanic before purchase but he was in a supposed rush to get to a work. Unfortunately, I didnt insist. I know better now. A hard lesson but this will never happen to me again.

I live in East Bay, CA. The Code is 35TOZZ-1. The car is drivable. Other than the brakes screeching alittle when I park the car drives ok. the Toyota Dealership told me with transmission problems it can stop working at anytime. So it may be six days, six weeks or six months before it breaks down on me. It is a check engine warning light. I was able to registered the car at the DMV with the check engine light on.

Thanks Mshugna! I hope so too.

“Why do you keep banging your head against the wall? Because it feels so good when I stop.” Your odds of ever getting a nickel out of this guy are probably in the single digits. He was slick enough to make $1500 on the deal himself and all he has to do is avoid you for 30 days and he’s home free no matter what. I don’t even think that little contract with him would hold up if you wanted to pursue it since it is missing one of the required elements like “consideration”.

You got taken, so now minimize the loss and move on. Sell it, trade it, or fix it, but I would not going buying used hybrids right now.

The car is not a Lemon and I think you may be up the creek without a paddle.
The police are not going to get involved because this is a civil matter, not a criminal one.

Obviously the guy pulled a fast one and your only recourse is court more than likely. Even if you get a judgement against him this does not get you your money. It only gives you a legal basis to collect it on and that can be an even more difficult task.

Question though. Was the title in this guy’s name and did he simply reassign it to you or did he have the title actually put into his name? Most states have laws against what is called “curbstoning” and this may be what the guy was involved in.
Curbstoning is the buying and reselling of cars without a license and often this involves a fine and/or jail time.
Maybe a search at the DMV will reveal whether or not this guy has been involved in several automobile transactions. If so, it then becomes a criminal matter for the police.

(For what it’s worth, curbstoning is a common practice illegal or not. I’d be surprised if this guy can even be found at this point.)

Someone mention that he might be a curbstoner. The title was not in his name. He had just bought the car about two weeks before I got it.

This code is in “Toyota ease” so I can’t help you with it. Now if it was in OBD2 format I could.

Its not uncommon at all to buy a 2002 vehicle with the potential for breakdown at any time. Look at it this way,you won’t be suprised.

Contact an attorney. You should be able to get a free consultation so that you both can decide whether it is worth pursuing. While the police might not be able to help you, the District Attorney might. Give his office a call, too.

Good one… Always good to have a humor about these situations…
Ive learned an invaluable lesson about human nature. In others and in myself. While it did hurt that I was “taken” it defined me. This could have happened to (almost) anyone. I joined this forum to help me determine what my next steps will be. Thanks for your comment

Btw the other code that was listed is P312- HV Transaxle Code #1. Does this help any?

Thank you. Will do.

Unless the guy had power of attorney, he couldn’t have sold it without the actual owner being present. Also, you should have walked away and set a time to come back when he didn’t have to be in such a rush to get to work.

“P” OBD2 codes are generic P- 0 it must have a zero P0312 is a misfire code for a twelve cylinder engine. So perhaps we are still speaking “Toyota ease”

Interesting. The car was sold to him according to the DMV records. However, the title he gave me was not yet in his name.
I realized that (and many other mis steps) I should have persisted to go to a mechanic. Had I done so we would have either gone OR he would have said no and I would have walked away.

Hmm ok… Thanks

It does sound like a curbstoner to me and that’s as good a reason as any to try and apply the thumbscrews to this guy; assuming you can find him and the name he signed to that repair agreement is even his real name.

In the state of MA if you purchased there and resident you could go after the seller and ask for full refund or payment on repair. If a buyer witholds a defect knowingly(sounds like proof available) they are on the hook.

Not sure of your states laws in selling private auto’s, my state has none. You definitely can take this to small claims. I personally would fix it and then get reimbursement for repair.