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What is required before the car is junked?!?

What does a mechanic have to do before he junks your car?
Basic facts:
Mechanic worked on my son’s car for 2 years (Taurus I bought used from my brother with 130K). Once visits became more frequent mechanic suggested we get a new car. As fate would have it he was selling one for a customer. Car had belonged to an older gentleman who had recently passed away. Buick/90kmi - Average 4k miles the last few years and never more than 8-10 during the life of the car. We purchased it for $2,500 and gave Taurus in trade. Car passed inspection but check engine light came on within a week. Brought it back he added fluids. Check engine light again a week later and he disconnected something to turn it off (said it was typical for this car). A week later it had trouble going when starting from a stop (sluggish to accelerate) he said it was a belt which they replaced (this service I paid for $100+/-). A week later it would not go in reverse. I brought it back and he said to leave it and he would look at it. A few days later … just after we owned it a month … wait for it … I was informed the transmission was gone. He offered to replace it for cost $1,000+/- and he would sell it for me (he claimed he could easily get more than I paid) and deduct the transmission and I would get the rest. I said okay. I told him my dad had been diagnosed with cancer and I would be focused on him. Almost a year has passed. During that time, my dad died, I dislocated my knee (requiring surgery and no driving for 6 weeks) and my son moved to the west coast. Since I was never asked for the title, I assumed the car never sold and decided I would donate the car to charity and be done with it. I contacted the mechanic and asked about the procedure. He sounded alarmed. Said the car was gone. Said he thought I took it. When I said I had not he asked for the plate number and then said he has them, meaning the car was junked he thinks sometime last spring.

Did he have any obligation to notify me? Do I have any recourse? The KBB value is mid 2-3K. I’m curious to hear what others think.

Yes, he had an obligation. You owned the car. He was only acting as the sales agent. He had no legal authority to junk it. Only you, the owner, did.

This is one for either a lawyer or small claims court.

Before an auto salvager can take a vehicle the vehicle title has to be provided to the salvager. So if the mechanic had the title to the vehicle he could salvage it.


Not unless the legal owner had signed the tiltle over to the mechanic.

In any event, I still think this needs a small claims court or a lawyer to resolve.

I still have the title. Hmmm … would my claim be with him or the salvage company who took the car or both?

When I went today to get the plates (needed to cancel insurance) there was nothing posted about storage fees or policies in general. In addition there is nothing on the website.

I will seek legal counsel - I think it would fall under 93A (triple damages & legal fees).

You’d go after the mechanic. Your dealings did not include the salvage company…if, if fact, that’s where the car went.

By the way, did you get your plates back?

Yes – I did get my plates today. I will turn them into the RMV so I don’t get billed for another year of insurance. As it is, I’ve paid 12 months of insurance for a car that only drove for 6 weeks :frowning:

I normally don’t disagree with Tester, but in this case, he could be wrong. In many states, a car can be junked with no paperwork at all if it is over a certain age. It is getting to be a problem here in Tennessee as a car as little as 10 years old can be junked if brought in on a tow truck.

Thieves have been stealing tow trucks, or taking them home with them if they work for a tow company, and then stealing cars and hauling them to junk yards. There have been cases where the car was already crushed by the time the owner realizes the car is missing.

And there is no recourse.

Take your title with you to the DMV and ask if the vehicle is still titled in your name. I suspect the shop placed a mechanics or storage lien on the vehicle in order to dispose of it. A year is a long time and parking can get tight at some shops.

If the car was sent to the salvage yard he must not have replaced the transmission and the car would have been of little value.

In Minnesota, you must provide the title of the vehicle to the salvager or they won’t take it. This is how Minnesota tracks vehicles with salvaged titles.

If you don’t have a title for the vehicle, then the vehicle has to be cut into four seperate sections. This way it’s no longer a vehicle and can be hauled away as scrap.

I had to do this to a nice 53 Old’s 2 door hardtop when the title couldn’t be found.


In Oklahoma a title is not necessary to scrap a car.

In this particular case, the shop sounds pretty slipshod both as to the handling of the car and some of the repairs.
One example might be the sluggish acceleration from a stop and blaming it on a belt.

If the mechanic put a lien on the car then he swore an oath to the court. He is in big trouble. In any state if he sold the car at all even for scrap he must in your case provide a copy of the lien and a receipt for the transfer of the property. A car like your house is a titled property and the basic law is that notice and legal papers must be provided on request. Even in Tennessee this title law must be applied as real title law covers all states except Louisiana.

In many states, repair shops can file a “mechanics lien” against the vehicle for unpaid repairs and after 60 or 90 days, the car is theirs…DMV will issue a title in the shops name and they can dispose of it…

In all states a mechanics lien is a legal document attesting facts that are not clear in this case. In most states a certified letter is required to be sent to the owner. On request to the mechanic he is required to prove to the title owner that the law was followed, that includes all statements and receipts. If he did a deal shy of this mark he illegaly sold titled property not his to sell.

Ok4450 … glad you caught that … I was mad about getting a lemon in the first place.

FYI – I am in MA if that helps anyone know what laws apply.

I agree there should be something a mechanic can do if a vehicle is abandoned when someone can’t pay but that was not the case here. I wonder if he was paid to junk it – if yes, that money is mine, isn’t it?!?

In mass you should have gotten a certified letter when he filed the lien. If you did not then he may not have filed at all. He just sold it. You need to receive from the mechanic all receipts and statements filed with the court(for the lien). If he will not give these then ask the court. While you are at the court pick up a small claims petition. It will cost about 50$ to file against the mechanic. But you must document that he did not give you the paperwork when you requested it, This is crucial.
Under the mass lemon law you may still request the court for the full value of the purchase of the car. You attempted 3 times to resolve issues and they were not fixed. Hit the mechanic with that bit of news. He will not like it.

If the shop obtained a title through the Lien Process the DMV will have documents on file. The documents may be at a distant location but they should be able to show that the documents were recorded and possably show images of them. You may want to verify that the certified letter was sent to the correct address.

@euryale1 Does the Mass lemon law pertain to used cars? The federal one doesn’t, unless, as someone else pointed out recently, they are new enough to still be covered by a factory warranty. This one isn’t.

If this unscrupulous shop parted that car out themselves, and disposed of the remainder of the hulk, then they would not have needed a title. I think you need to sue them in small claims. Retaining a lawyer will probably cost more than you will get, unless you can go for triple damages.

Mass lemon law does have limits on age and mileage. But civil law on merchantability still applies. The failure to provide notice and the failure to fix the car, in addition to the come on to sell the other car in exchange, provides enough info on this technique. The courts have seen this crap before. As a civil case this guy will not sell cars in mass for years.
Small claims will hear this for 50$. The owner just needs to put the story to the judge herself. With all the documents this a$$mechanic is toast.