Seller must pay car buyer $5K in case of misrepresentation, tribunal rules

'Buyer beware' on used car

The old saying 'buyer beware' applies to a case of a used car sold to a Vernon woman.

But the seller will still have to compensate her.

In a Civil Resolution Tribunal of British Columbia small claims decision rendered March 3 tribunal member Micah Carmody ruled that Scott MacDonald must pay buyer Julie Le Gall $5,283.36 in damages, interest, and court fees.

Le Gall bought a 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan from MacDonald in July 2021, paying $9,000.

It had been listed on Facebook for $9,800 and described as as a "great little SUV, in great shape, super reliable, runs great and great in the snow."

After multiple oil leaks, Le Gall claimed Mr. MacDonald misrepresented the car's condition and service history.

MacDonald denied the claims and said the car was in great shape for its age. He said he knew about an oil leak before the sale, but chose not to repair it because it was minor.

Less than a week later Le Gall discovered an oil leak and had the car inspected by Elite Auto Centre in Kelowna, where MacDonald had purchased the car and had it serviced.

The tribunal report states Elite reported multiple oil leaks coming from the engine. Le Gall paid $654.10 to replace the vacuum pump, but deferred replacing the engine timing cover gasket and valve cover gaskets for around $2,000.

Oil continued to leak, so she took the car to Vernon Volkswagen in November and paid $166.33 for an inspection. VW estimated $6,241.10 in repairs were needed, including $1,700 for non-engine leak related work.

Prior to a planned long trip the following spring, VW noted all engine seals were leaking and getting worse. Le Gall was advised not to drive the car on the highway.

In March 2022, she had VW remove the engine for repair or replacement of various gaskets, timing covers, plugs and seals. She paid $4,161.51 for the work.

Le Gall found out that Elite had replaced the car’s engine in January 2021 and thus was not warrantied.

"The principal of buyer beware generally applies to private purchases of used vehicles. This means that buyers assume the risk that a vehicle might have significant defects. There is no common law duty for a seller to disclose known defects, but they cannot actively conceal or misrepresent them. In short, a buyer who fails to have the vehicle inspected is subject to the risk that they did not get what they thought they were getting and made a bad bargain," Carmody ruled.

"However, if a seller misrepresents a used car’s condition, the buyer may be entitled to compensation for losses arising from that misrepresentation."

Carmody found MacDonald misrepresented the service work performed on the engine, the presence of an oil leak, the fact the engine had been replaced, and the number of kilometres on it, which was unknown.

"I find Mr. MacDonald misled Ms. Le Gall by concealing, when specifically asked about Elite’s January 2021 engine work, that the car's engine was replaced by a different engine. This is significant because Mr. MacDonald also represented the car to have 124,000 km in the advertisement, and Ms. Le Gall confirmed the mileage on the odometer when she test-drove it," Carmody wrote.

Le Gall did not ask for a refund, but must be reimbursed for the repair work.

MacDonald has 30 days from the ruling to pay.

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