By Jordan W. Charness; photo courtesy

Peter had a new question for me.  Unlike many of his questions, he was not really the central character involved.  In this particular case his daughter had a brand new boyfriend who had a serious legal question.  His question had nothing to do with traffic infractions but had everything to do with buying a car.

The boyfriend is a really nice guy in his mid-20s who takes his job very seriously and was happy to have purchased his first fancy car.  Although the car generally sold for around $60,000 he had purchased a certified pre-owned car from the manufacturer dealership at a lesser price.  The car itself came with an extended warranty that would be good until 120,000 km or the year 2014, whichever came first.  According to the dealer it had been properly inspected before he bought it and was in as good a shape as could be expected for a car of that vintage.

For the first six months the boyfriend was very happy with the car.  It did everything he wanted it to do and looked good while doing it.  After the six-month honeymoon was over, the car started to need the occasional repair, which was covered under the warranty.  Each time he took it into the dealer to repair it he was given a rental car if the repair would take longer than a day.

Even so, the car only went in for repairs every couple of months and seemed to be nothing major.  The boyfriend loved the car and he thought the car loved him right back.  That is, until the day he put the key in the ignition and absolutely nothing worked.  Not only did the car not turn over, absolutely nothing electrical worked at all.  He had no horn, no lights, no ignition, no air conditioning, no windows, no cruise control; in fact, he had no motor car at all.  He did, however, have a very stylish, good-looking piece of sculpture that resembled a car.  It looked great on the driveway but wasn’t much good for driving.

Since the car certainly was not going anywhere under its own power he had it towed to the dealership.  They gave him a rental car and a day or so later called him with the sad news that his car had a serious problem.  There was a major cable that basically connected all the electrical power to the vehicle that was no longer functioning.  As a result nothing in the car would work.

The bad news was that the cable costs $800 and labour would be about another thousand.  But even worse news was that this particular part was not covered by his warranty.  His extended warranty listed all the parts that were covered and this particular cable was glaringly absent.  The dealer told him that it was very rare that this part would let go but it did occasionally happen.

The boyfriend felt that since he bought a certified pre-owned car from a reputable dealer that he had probably paid a premium to buy the car and that it should not have this type of expensive malfunction.

Unfortunately I had to point out that the fact that he bought it from a manufacturer dealership was not a guarantee that it would never have an unusual problem.  His legal recourse and rights were the same as they would be if he had bought it from a used car dealer. The only warranty he would have would be the extended warranty that he purchased, which did not cover this cable.

I did suggest that he look up this particular malfunction on the Internet and see if perhaps there had been a recall because it was so unusual.  He could also contact the district manager of the manufacturer to see if they would like to contribute toward the repairs since this type of thing probably should never have happened.  Although it didn’t seem fair, it was perfectly legal for the dealer to charge them for the repair.

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