Family stranded after buying dodgy car

Blenheim woman Crystal Port bought a car off Trade Me so she could take her family to Christchurch to visit her father during his cancer treatment.

But they only made it to Kaikoura before the car broke down, four days after it was purchased.

The 1994 Honda Odyssey cost Port $1700 and the Trade Me auction stated, “the car rides very smooth, no engine problems whatsoever”.

Port approached Trade Me and the seller to seek a resolution, without success. The person was selling the car on behalf of a friend who had been travelling around New Zealand and was due to leave the country for good this week. Port sought legal advice, approached Community Law Marlborough, the District Court, police and Immigration New Zealand but was told nothing could be done before the seller left the country.

“I’m bloody angry. I’ve tried every avenue,” she said.

The Consumer Guarantees Act and Fair Trading Act do not apply to private car sales, however a complaint could be lodged with the Disputes Tribunal under the Contractual Remedies Act. The tribunal process takes six to eight weeks, which is time Port doesn’t have.

Ministry of Justice client services representative Kate Nichol said once the seller had gone overseas it was no longer in the disputes tribunal jurisdiction. It would need to go through the civil district court, which was long and costly process.

The repairs to the car are estimated to cost $1000, money which Port doesn’t have. “We have a loan to buy the vehicle, so [now] we are paying for a car that we don’t have.”

Kaikoura mechanic Ian Walker, who inspected the car, said that it had a blown head gasket which had caused it to overheat.

He suggested that “any vehicle should be inspected by a qualified mechanic to get an appraisal. Unfortunately there are people around who will take advantage of that”.

AA motoring advice manager Andrew Bayliss said that overheating was one of the biggest causes of engine failure and that the tests in an inspection would highlight such issues. The circumstances were unfortunate and the AA recommended people had pre-purchase inspections on older vehicles, he said.

Port was angry that no action could be taken and wanted this to be a warning for others in the same situation. “There should be something that can be done. They have ripped us off, how many people does this happen to?”

The car had been taken for a test drive before purchase, and was not said to have any problems in the auction.\

“If we don’t get to Christchurch, we might miss saying goodbye to my dad,” she said.

_Samantha Gee, in The Press