Goof of the Month: Sold As-Is for a Reason

Welcome to Goof of the Month! Every month, we highlight a story or situation that reinforces the need for drivers and shoppers to understand their vehicle, how to maintain it, and how it works.

In this ongoing feature, we’ve highlighted all forms, types and styles of automotive neglect. This time around? The sad story of a shopper who figured they were getting a deal on a used luxury crossover, and wound up with a very nasty surprise after making several mistakes, including skipping of our number-one top tip that applies to buying any used vehicle: have it checked by a mechanic before you purchase.

Here’s the gist: Harmeet, a member of the discussion forum, had recently bought an older, high-mileage Acura MDX for $1,400.

Shortly afterwards, things went south.

Harmeet’s post says: “Found out after my wheels starting going inward and going to the auto shop that my subframe was completely rotted out.”

Extensive rust had eaten through and penetrated some of the vehicle’s vital structural elements. The excessive corrosion had led to numerous problems, including the misalignment of the vehicle’s wheels, presumably because the suspension component mounting points had moved or shifted due to the deformation of the vehicle’s structure.

In plain English, the metal beneath this MDX was turning into Swiss cheese, and that meant the body was no longer solid. Imagine your house had a gaping, 10-foot hole in its foundation. This is the sort of thing that’s going on here. It’s very bad news.

The pictures tell the tale: the level of rust shown in the photos is catastrophic, has compromised the integrity of the MDX’s structure and body, and presents a safety issue. This vehicle is well on its way to literally breaking apart or collapsing as it rolls down the road, likely causing an accident in the process. It’s not safe for use on public roads – though some shoppers buy vehicles like this on purpose, to use for hunting, on a farm, or in other settings where the vehicle won’t be operated near the general motoring masses. Oftentimes, vehicles like this are sold with descriptions like “as-is” or “for parts”.

Seems like whoever sold Harmeet this rotting pile of flaky sheet-metal may have skipped that detail in the for-sale ad. Harmeet says he planned to keep this MDX for a long time (hence why he jumped on the vehicle, given its very low price). Instead of getting a few years of use out of an old luxury SUV, he’s now got a boat-anchor that’s crumbling before his eyes.

“Not sure how that even passed a safety inspection. I wouldn’t have passed it. Not a chance in hell!” says John Kennard, a long-time auto service technician in Mississauga, Ontario. “Maybe this fellow bought it from a shady mechanic who just wrote up a fake safety so he could sell it? This is a really nasty practice that we think doesn’t happen – but this story might beg to differ.

“I hope that vehicle isn’t on the road anymore – you’d be safer driving down the highway on a toboggan. That truck is ready to fall apart, quite seriously. Imagine the rust in the areas that we can’t see in those pictures.”

Harmeet made a few mistakes, here. The first, and biggest, was not having the vehicle inspected by a technician (like Kennard) before he agreed to buy it.

“We charge $99.99 for a used vehicle inspection. It takes one of our guys or gals about an hour to do, and we go through everything. If I’d put this on the hoist and seen that, I probably wouldn’t have even carried on with the inspection,” Kennard says.

“This sort of thing is where I call the customer in, show them the underside, and tell them to walk away from the vehicle. That’s $99.99 to save, what, $1,400, he spent? Heck, I’d have noticed that rotting subframe 15 minutes into my inspection and probably given the poor gentleman a discount on the inspection.”

Can the vehicle be fixed? Maybe so, maybe no – and Kennard leans heavily towards “no”.

“You can fix just about anything, but that doesn’t mean you should,” he says. “To me, this doesn’t look like it’s worth fixing. I read some comments in the chat room from other folks saying he’s best to part the vehicle out instead of fixing it, and that’s just what I’d be doing. I think this one is too far gone to worry about repairing it – and if it was repaired, I’d be worried the rust would just return and start eating up something else.”

Lesson learned? Drawn in by what looked like a killer deal, Harmeet bought the vehicle without having it inspected properly, possibly relying on a questionable certificate as guarantee that the vehicle was in good shape. Now, he’s got a paperweight that’s unsafe to drive.

As we’ve said before and will again: have any used vehicle you’re considering inspected by a (reputable) technician. If a deal looks too good to be true, it’s likely that it is.

Not all vehicles can be fixed. 10/11/2018 10:00:00 AM