Late December 1999 I needed to purchase an cheap car, I searched Auto Trader and found that The Used Car Store, Inc. Stafford VA listed the types of cars and prices that I could afford. I made an appointment,told the salesman that I needed realiable and safe transportation to make frequent long distance trips between VA and NYC to visit my disabled mother, and that I could pay a grand, but no more.
He said he had a car that he would let go for that amount, that it was safe and reliable. It was a grey 1986 Honda Civic with over 200,000 miles, exterior and interior was emaculate for its age and milage. It had a current safety inspection sticker. I test drove it, it drove smoothly. There was no warranty, so I purchased it As IS.
In the next two weeks I had already put over 200 miles on it. On my way home one afternoon, after returning from Manassas VA (over 30 miles away, and only two blocks away from my house the steering wheel locked as I rounded a corner. I stepped on the brakes, when the car stopped, I got out and walked around to the front of it. I was stunned by what I saw.
The front right wheel lay on its side in the wheel well. I walked home, got my camera and took a variety of photographs to help calm my hysteria, had the car towed, and the damage evaluated. The evaluation revealed that the ball joint was bad, so when I tried to turn the steering wheel on the corner, it stressed the worn ball joint, breaking it, and pulling the axle out of the transmission. The bill including labor was $550. My insurance did not cover that kind of non-violent damage. So, I contacted the salesman and told him what had happened. He spoke to his supervisor who promptly said the car was sold As Is, and I had no recourse.
I went back to my insurance agent and told her the entire story, showed her the pictures I had taken of the damage, and began to make a case as to why I felt The Used Car Store, Inc. was liable for at least for some of the damage. You see, ball joints are typically inspected for wear during any safety inspection in Virginia; the dealership had the car inspected, it was on their property prior to sale with the current inspection sticker displayed, the salesman knew the specific particulars I needed in a car. Even though it was an As Is sale, the dealership was liable for the replacement of the ball joint prior to sale, because it was an obvious safety issue. I told the agent that I was extremely lucky not to have been on I-95 North when the ball joint broke, as the car would have turned over and I could have been badly hurt.
The agent understood my argument, and began trying to get in touch with the dealership by phone. As the manager never returned her calls, she wrote them a letter stating the issue, and enclosed two photos. She urged them to contact me or the insurance company to come to an amicable agreement. They never did.
Inspite of the As Is purchase, the car gets excellent gas mileage, over 25 mpg locally and on long trips. I still believe the dealership should reimburse me for some of the damage. And even though I do like the car, I will never recommend The Used Car Store, Inc. to anyone. In fact, the riddle is still up on my website: http://hometown.aol.com/vampyrump/index.html
(At the time od sale, both the salesman and manager knew that I a publicity business in Alexandria VA, and rumors spread quickly)