Should I Get My Deposit Back if Used Car Differs Greatly from Description?

Hey guys, just thought I'd grab a few unbiased opinions of a situation I've found myself in.

I found a 70s car I was keen to buy. it wasn't the greatest example - body was pretty rusted and the paint job was subpar - but according to the online ad "all driving components have been maintained and are in good working condition". It also advised that the engine and gearbox had recently been rebuilt, and the car was currently registered. This all sounded pretty good to me, and as the vehicle was in a different state to me, I organised to book a Stateroads comprehensive inspection to make sure I wasn't buying a lemon, and the buyer asked for a deposit over the weekend ($200). In conversation with the seller, he advised me that there were some "wear and tear" components which would need replacing.

Yesterday was inspection day, and I received the results - to bring the car up to roadworthy standards, EVERYTHING would need to be rebuilt or replaced. I asked how the driving components were - they were rusted and would all need to be replaced if I was to register the vehicle, bumping the potential cost up by a large amount. After hearing this, I decided I wouldn't be going ahead with the purchase.

Unfortunately I have already placed the $200 deposit on the car, which I would very much like to get back. It's my belief that the current state of the car differs greatly from what was described - "driving components are in good working condition" and advising me that some "wear and tear" components would need replacing before a roadworthy is not the same as being told that the ENTIRE car was in bad condition, and that everything would need to either be rebuilt or replaced.

Do you think I would be justified in asking nicely for my deposit back?


Update: I had a look back through my messages with the seller to gain some context regarding the deposit - turns out he did add the word 'unconditional' in a long message regarding the deposit, and I obviously didn't pay much attention to it.

Lesson learned, and time for me to move on and be more vigilant next time.

Comments

  • +7 votes

    What did they say when you asked for the deposit back?

    • +1 vote

      He hasn't asked…..he is asking us if there is a justification for asking nicely.

    • +3 votes

      I called him last night to turn down the offer - his response was to drop the price by $500 bucks and insist that I take the night to think it over and call him back tomorrow. I'll be calling this afternoon sometime to ask - just thought I'd garner some opinions to check if that would be a fair thing to do.

      • +9 votes

        In which case, definitely, call back, say you have slept on it and the risk of work needed far outweighs the $500 discount and you would no longer like to proceed with the sale. More than fair to suggest it is not as described and therefore you should get your deposit back.

      • +1 vote

        off topic a little OP
        how much was the seller asking for the car?
        why such an old car? was there something unique about the car?
        i mean no offence, just not a car person and never understood why…

        • +5 votes

          I'd personally rather an older car than a new one - I've owned both old and new, and old just has so much more character, plus they're mostly mechanical instead of electronic, letting me service it myself. Plus, I'm young, with no mortgage and no family to drive around so this is the best time for me to own an impractical car, haha.

          •  

            @ngengerous: "Character" LOL. That's code for hard to start and no power steering or air con.

            •  

              @bmerigan: Its also code for will leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere if you try using it for a long drive.

            • +1 vote

              @bmerigan: Wow…. Ignorant much.

              My car turned 51 this year, starts first crank, even after sitting for months. The only electrics I need to worry about with it are the battery and MAYBE points (assuming people don't upgrade these to electronic dizzy anyway) & plugs.

              Good of a time as any to own such a car. Tie yourself in with a club and get club rego for a fraction of the cost, insurance for a fraction for the cost, rinse and repeat. I'd rather have 4 cars with character than one with ac/ps, of which can be had in our classics anyway.

              To answer your question OP, back out. If the alarm bells are ringing, go with your gut. You'll end up spending way more down the line trying to fix things. Only plus to that is then you'll know that things are new!

              My only other concern is that your posts seem to highlight a lack of mechanical experience, thus compounding the potential issues of needing to carry out any work other than just your regular minor service.

  • +2 votes

    Who paid for the inspection? Id see it fair that if he paid you would get back the deposit minus whatever the inspection cost was

  • -2 votes

    all driving components have been maintained and are in good working condition

    means it drives OK.

    to bring the car up to roadworthy standards, EVERYTHING would need to be replaced. I asked how the driving components were - they were rusted and would all need to be replaced if I was to register the vehicle,

    replace what ?

    replace rusted engine ?

    replaced rusted gearbox ?

    the engine & gearbox rusted through a hole ?

    •  

      Engine and gearbox were a little rusted - but I was advised they would need to be taken apart and assessed to determine which parts exactly were failing inside and completely rebuilt.

      Probably should have stated replaced OR rebuilt - but every part of the car would need to be worked on.

      •  

        need to be taken apart and assessed

        Unless it's actually failing, the Seller might not have actually misrepresented anything then.

        • +3 votes

          I would argue that "good working condition" is different from "working condition". Throwing in that extra word would imply to me that the driving components were "good" and NOT in need of reconditioning if not complete replacement.

          • +1 vote

            @ngengerous:

            Engine and gearbox were a little rusted

            A little rusted (in terms of engine components) doesn't seem like a big issue to me. A lot rusted would be, but in this case it seems like the inspector is just being careful and saying "Hey, there's a little bit of rust here, check everything". Which is smart when you're talking about a 70s car, but it doesn't mean the seller necessarily did anything wrong either.

          •  

            @ngengerous: so the car doesn't drive ?

            or you just simply say light rust on engine/gearbox casing require complete replacement ?

  • +11 votes

    You're buying a rusty car that's close to 50 years old. There is some inherent risk.

    Your claim that all driving components would need to be replaced is ridiculous. You're saying the engine, gearbox, drive shafts, CVs, etc all need replacing because of rust? Light rust is fine for RWC reasons.

    What really matters here is if the deposit was considered refundable. Did you get a receipt for it?

    • +3 votes

      I did ask the inspector if the rust was just light, but he found it to be deep in all areas - the gearbox and engine were the lightest, but would need to be pulled apart and rebuilt.

      There was no receipt for the deposit - I'd be relying on the seller being a decent bloke.

      • +2 votes

        No one has ever rebuilt a gearbox because of rust. It's probably cast so won't rust as much as the rest of the car. Either or gets replaced it is fine.

        I don't trust this inspection.

      • -3 votes

        Fool be you for unconditionally paying any deposit.
        Im sorry but you deserve to lose your deposit like a kick in the backside for doing so.
        Loss of deposit might ensure you have learnt your lesson and don't repeat the same mistake.

      • -1 vote

        My humble advice: do not buy Celicas. I had '79,'80 and '81 models in 1990s and it was very hard to get parts for them. The decent one I saw in Qld is over $30,000 for '76 model. Don't expect much for $5000. And they lack safety and reliability of modern cars even if you put thousands of dollars for fuel injection engine, ABS, discs and many other things that some brand new cars already have for half the price. Roads have changed since 1990s, driving culture too. Safety is the first priority.

        •  

          I don't care for the safety aspect as I own 2 vehicles from the 70's, but you are certainly right regarding parts availability on Celicas.

  • +13 votes

    Looking at 1970s cars sight unseen… you're a brave person!

    • -3 votes

      Its called FOOLISH beyond comprehension

      • +5 votes

        Plenty of people do it. For rare cars it often means a trip across the nation to view, or alternatively do some diligence like getting photos, video or a second opinion (such as OP sought) then take a chance.

        If the model you are chasing doesn’t come up often chances are it is for an enthusiast keen to rebuild.

        I’d possibly do it if I was chasing something rare and had plenty of spending money. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of spare coin for rare project cars - or maybe that is fortunately.

  • +6 votes

    Depends on the deposit type - holding or purchase deposit.

    If the deposit was to keep hold of the car for you and not sell to someone else in that time frame .

    Seller did that - potentially rejecting other offers over the past 4 days.

    He might give it back out of kindness but legally he can argue that he kept up his end of the deal .

    If its the second option then potentially yes since the product is not as described

    But without having anything in writing i think the moneys gone

    •  

      Yeah that's the main thing - we didn't discuss exact terms of deposit, but as soon as I placed it, he listed the ad as sold, so I would argue that seems like a purchase deposit.

      Once again though, we didn't state that explicitly, so I think I'll be relying on good will once I give him a call.

      • -6 votes

        Its irrelevant.
        No receipt
        Unconditional
        Kiss your deposit goodbye.
        Next time do the inspection first.
        Frankly you have wasted this guys time and potentially he may have lost the opportunity to sell to another buyer.
        The seller has done what was asked of him.
        Its not right to be asking for any deposit back as you are withdrawing from an unconditional sale.
        This is your mistake OP. Not the seller.

  • +2 votes

    What was the point of the deposit if there was no penalty for you? Or was the deposit something for them to hold while you had possession of the car temporarily for inspection?

    •  

      It was meant to hold the car for me while I waited for the inspection date.

      • -5 votes

        Ok give it a crack and say here's the car back I'd like my deposit. If they don't want to give you back the deposit, keep the car until they change their mind?

  •  

    SO how much was car going to cost you in the first place?

  • +7 votes

    Too many irrelevant questions; how much was the asking cost, what the repairs would be, type of deposit, etc, etc.

    The seller advertised an item. In good faith the buyer placed a deposit on the item, pending an inspection. The inspection showed that the item was not as described in the advertisement.

    This is pretty cut and dried: if not deliberately deceptive, it is certainly misleading at best.

    I would tell the seller this, and if the response is not satisfactory, tell them you will take the matter to the State Administrative Tribunal (WA).

    People cannot just advertise something falsely and take your money based on those false premises.

    All that said, it will, of course, be up to you if you wish to try and take this further if the seller doesn't come to the party. My guess is that they will not refund your deposit. They have already demonstrated bad faith by wilfully advertising an item falsely. They will also likely know that it will be difficult for you to pursue the matter legally from another state. I doubt that kind of person will be worried/intimidated/concerned about some possible future very minor legal proceeding. Most likely, only when actually faced with court order or demand to appear will they cave. Obviously hoping that you would do so first.

    Expensive (especially including your inspection cost), annoying, time-wasting, frustrating. Yep. Bad luck.

    BTW, my second car was a 1973 Celica 1.6L ST. It was a pretty cool-looking car back in 1980, second-year at Uni. But, geez, it was slow. (Almost as slow as my first car: 1972 Austin Tasman… LOL)

  • +5 votes

    Private sale?

    Fortunately it's only $200 and not a 10% or more holding deposit.

    Unless there's a get out clause you've signed eg "Subject to a satisfactory roadworthy report" you've got Buckleys chance of getting your money back.

    It'll cost you more in Lawyer and Court costs to fight it.

    Put it down to a life lesson and move on.

  •  

    In an ideal world, you should be getting your deposit back…

  •  

    Turn it down obviously but also let him know all the issues that the inspection uncovered, unlikely but he may be unaware himself of the issues

  • +7 votes

    I used to get inspections done.

    One period I was looking for an Sti in Sydney. I had 4 inspections done on cars and they all came back that the vehicles had major issues etc, etc.

    I went and looked at the last one myself after the inspection and it was very good. I purchased it and it was hassle free for years.

    They are very anal.

    PS: This was for a vehicle that was 8 years old. I would hate to think what they would find on a 40 year old car.

  • +3 votes

    Rust in a car body is bad news, but I have never heard of rust affecting the internal operations of a gearbox or engine.

    You're in Qld and the car is in WA, so you must really want a vintage Celica.

    I would write off the $200 and look for a car in Qld.

    •  

      Probably to do with a loss of virginity, and the desire to relive the good time. Otherwise why else would you bother…

  • +2 votes

    Sounds like:
    1. OP doesn’t know enough about cars to be buying a classic
    2. The ‘inspector’ doesn’t know enough about classic cars to be taking money for inspections.

    •  

      +1 vote

      Euphemistic 11 sec agonew

      Sounds like:
      1. OP doesn’t know enough about cars to be buying a classic
      2. The ‘inspector’ doesn’t know enough about classic cars to be taking money for inspections.

      As soon as I read 70's celica I thought oh a restoration thread. Turned out to be not the case.

    •  
      1. I'm fairly sure "Celica" and "classic" are mutually exclusive.
      •  

        There is quite a following for the early 70s ones. Later ones less so. But being a 2 door, rear wheel drive they are a lot more popular than the later front wheel drive ‘hairdresser’ models.

  •  

    Were you expecting something different from a 40+ year old car.

    • +1 vote

      Or OP was expecting a $30,000 example for $5,000.

    •  

      I was surprised to find one for that price with the description the seller provided - obviously something that old, if not maintained, will be needing a whole lot of TLC. It wouldn't be perfect, but I wasn't expecting perfect.

  •  

    When I was 18 I just HAD to have a '79 celica fastback. I almost bought one without an engine I was so insistent. The light blue one I ended up getting was oh so beautiful but a complete money pit. Every month a new component needed repalacing. I hate to think what another TWENTY years has done to these cars!!

    •  

      But do you regret the purchase?

    •  

      An enthusiast would know this and expect repairs to be done. They will also know the going rate for the model they were chasing in all sorts of conditions and have an idea whether they were payinntoo much for a junker. Some cars are worth a lot in any condition.

      About 15y ago I sold a classic car sight unseen, from one photo, a couple of lines in the Just Cars trading mag and a 2min phone call. $8k in cash to my brother in law living near the buyer, no deposit. Picked up a week later. The buyer knew he’d be modifying/upgrading it.

  •  

    Hey OP. Let us know how it goes! Good luck! 💐

  •  

    As others have said, you can ask for the deposit back but for $200 there's probably no legal avenues that would be worth pursuing if the seller decides not to give it back.

    If you're buying a 1970s car and need to get it inspected to determine whether there are issues, I don't think you should be buying a 1970s car.

  •  

    Why do you want this model and how badly do you want one? Will you be restoring it or expect to drive around and get a mechanic to fix everything? If you want a mechanic to fix everything walk away and get a newer car, like 5-10yo. If you are going to fix it yourself then you need to make your own inspection.

    Without knowing the exact model, there were a few different body shapes in the 70s, you might be better to buy this one and suck up the repairs required.

  • +1 vote

    hmmm, this needed to be clarified before you handed the deposit over, if you gave me a $200 deposit and opted out you would not be getting your deposit back off me unless this was stated clearly that you expected your deposit back if the report was not favorable to you at time of putting deposit down. A deposit stops any other potential buyer from buying the car, i would consider the deposit a fair loss for the sellers inconvenience and potential loss of sale to other buyers while it was on hold waiting for your inspection.
    I bet my lefty that if you said to a seller when you offered the deposit you would expect it back if you didn't like the report he would have passed on the offer and left the car on the market.

    • +1 vote

      Even if not explicitly stated, I think it could be fairly argued that the deposit was subject to the inspection passing.

  •  

    Since you didn't discuss what the deposit was actually for, I don't think you have much chance of getting the money back. I did a similar thing for a buyer, however they paid for the RACQ inspection, I just organised it (dropped the car off, picked it up etc).

  • +2 votes

    Buyer: Hey Im interested in your car
    Seller: Sure I will need a deposit
    Buyer: Nah I'll come and inspect the car when I get a chance.

    You paid a deposit to hold a vehicle that no one would have bought otherwise.

    You'll know for next time.

  •  

    I think you have a good argument that the deposit was paid in good faith subject to the inspection - which didn't pass.

    I would ask for refund on that basis.

    • +1 vote

      About as simple as it gets. Either they'll have a heart and accept their description wasn't accurate OR they intended to decieve, in which case the money was as good as theirs the whole time. Win win for the seller.

  •  

    Regardless of the moralistic answer, what you should be asking yourself is it worth attempting to get your money back from a private seller.
    In this case, the answer is no. Take it as a life lesson and move on.

    You decided to take a risk on a car on the opposite side of the country, paid a deposit based on a description and not photos, and assumed the inspection would confirm the description.

    If the person plays hardball and won't refund it, just how valuable is your time for $200 plus the inspection fee, and any other costs associated with attempting to retrieve the funds?

    Ask for the deposit back, but don't be surprised when they tell you to bugger off.

  • +1 vote

    you have no leg to stand on.
    Any car from that era is a money pit.
    Rust on box and motor ? Betting its totally superficial and you'd run both for the next ten years without that rust causing issue. There'd be a crapload more go wrong with ancillary components and suspension alone.

    Dont get into older cars if you're not ready to spend. The less you know about cars, the more you will spend.

    Lesson learned, move on. Good luck with your dream car in the future :)

  •  

    A little of topic but the problem with these inspections is that they usually offer some form of insurance against faults found after purchasing and therefore mark every little thing down as being catastrophic. I was selling a car in the UK and a potential buyer had a RAC inspection done. The report came back saying the radiator was rusted through and would need replacing whereas in actual fact a wet leaf and dirt had got into the honeycomb and left a brown stain (cleaned out and monitored - no leak) and also that the brake cylinder was leaking in the footwell as he found oily residue and would need replacing. Again this was just down to greasing of the brake mechanism. They are probably ok to unearth some major faults but you really need to have a look yourself, Wouldnt it be expected for a 40 year unrestored car to be rusty? Just a strip down and shot blast of the running gear and most of it would be fine to go, the chassis and bodywork on the other hand…..

  • +6 votes

    These threads always highlight the people who enjoy cars and those who don't.

    •  

      Always gets my attention! Haha

      I think if the neysayers were the OzBargain-ers they make out to be, they'd all be driving around the most frugal, accessory/safety packed car possible, but I highly doubt that is the case. So really a bit hypocritical.

  •  

    All you can do is ask nicely.

  • +2 votes

    Tell the seller that he can keep a copy of the inspection report if he gives you back your deposit.

    • +1 vote

      Report is useless… No real buyer after a classic car is going to get an NRMA inspection report or equivalent done. The only reason you would buy this car is for its collection value now or as a project or rebuild etc. Nobody is looking at 1970s celicas to use for their 100km highway commute for fuel efficiency and reliability.

      • +1 vote

        If I was the seller I wouldn’t want a report like that anyway. Who in their right mind is going to offer a buyer a report that says your car is rubbish.

  • +4 votes

    Update: I had a look back through my messages with the seller to gain some context regarding the deposit - turns out he did add the word 'unconditional' in a long message regarding the deposit, and I obviously didn't pay much attention to it.

    Lesson learned, and time for me to move on and be more vigilant next time.

    •  

      Struggling to find the answer to my question amongst all the comments..

      Did you ask for the deposit back? Or did you just find that unconditional wording and didn't ask?

  •  

    Here's the beast in question I assume.
    https://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/north-perth/cars-vans-utes/c...
    I'd ask nicely and if refused just move on OP. Not worth the hassle over $200. FWIW I wouldn't have expected your inspection to result in anything other that what you found for a 70s celica for $5K.

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