I frequent a brand-specific website about cars. All too often the posts I read have to do with shoddy workmanship by a dealer. When the poor owner protests, he or she gets the finger. Well now, out here in Washington State, our Small Claims Court is just the ticket for those hosed by dealers (or anyone else for that matter). I’ve sued two dealers and won both times. One for a botched valve job the other for defective paint. The judges showed no mercy.
The dollar limit for Small Claims Court used to be $5,000. It may be different now. But even at that niggardly sum, you can probably recover your costs. Most bum repair jobs are less than five grand.
The website for your county will tell you how to file a small claims lawsuit, but I can tell you that here in Washington, it’s easy. The playing field is truly level; neither party can bring in lawyers – both of you argue the merits yourselves. The dealer won’t have some shyster blowing smoke up the judge’s ass. If you win, the dealer enjoys no right to appeal to a higher court; the ruling is final and you get your money
As for collecting: If the dealer fails to pay by the drop-dead date, the plaintiff can go back to the court house and have the sheriff take the money (plus fees) out of the dealer’s bank account and send it off to you. Or file a lien against the his inventory.
Does a lawsuit take time and effort? Yes, but not all that much; it’s a lot less than dancing around with the dealer, the zone office and headquarters.
You should also know that a court summons is often all it takes to make them cough up. With the dealer I sued, he and the manufacturer had been giving me the run-around for two weeks but the day after the dealer got the summons, the GM was on the phone expressing his outrage. But in three days, my car had a new paint job.
So why do we dilly-dally with these people? I say when a car dealer – or any other business – screws up and costs us money, don’t play their game and get locked into a never-ending chain of 800 numbers and recorded messages, sue the bastards!