Pulled Over By Police After Toyota Dealer Rented Me A Car That Was Illegal To Drive

UPDATE: Chris goes back to the dealership and makes the manager give him 50% off his bill

Chris took his car in for repairs and they rented him a loaner car. While driving it, the police pulled him over and could’ve written him a ticket for several things that were the dealership’s fault: unlawful plate display, driving an unregistered vehicle, and there being no rental agreement in the car. They let him go without a ticket but wrote out on the back of a ticket (pictured) all the citations they could have issued.

The police wouldn’t let him drive the car back so Chris had to wait for the dealership to come by and pick him up. The dealership dudes were very apologetic and hooked him up with a new rental, and a slice of pizza, but Chris feels he should get more for all the hassle he endured.

We do too. The dealership manager should call and apologize and should knock off the price of one of Chris’ repairs, say throw in the tire balancing for free.

Resolving customer service issues like this takes two ingredients:
1) an apology from a supervisor and
2) a material gesture of apology (i.e., something of monetary value to the business (no, the pizza doesn’t count))

Chris’ letter, inside…

Chris writes:

I took my 03 Corolla in for repairs because it was shaking intermittently at high speeds. I took it back to the dealership where I purchased it in November 2006. I’ve only driven 2700 miles in that time, and the car is still under the factory warranty, and the 3 year / 36,000 mile warranty I purchased. Part of the repair cost was covered by the warranty, part of it was not (calipers broke – covered, rotors and pads had to be replaced as a result of broken calipers – not covered).

They gave me a rental, covered by my warranty, a new Prius. I drove it to work from the dealership. On the way home from work I was pulled over by the police. The registration sticker was out of date, the plate was improperly displayed, and the plate didn’t match the VIN (discovered after they pulled me over). The police were very friendly and told me that the dealership had really screwed me over, and that I definitely couldn’t drive this another inch. The dealership hadn’t given me a rental agreement, and I had assumed it was in the glove compartment (as it had been before when they gave me a vehicle after my initial purchase while they did minor repairs I negotiated during the buying process) – it wasn’t.

I gave the police the business card for the dealership and they arranged for the dealership to drive out and pick up the car, and give me a new rental. The office wrote up all the citations he could have issued on a blank parking ticket, which he told me to show the dealership. I have attached a picture of it, the text reads:
1372-3 117.50 – Unlawful Plate Display
1301-A Court Unregistered Vehicle
6308-A 117.50
Police Investigation No Rental Agreement
Tow Charge $135.00

Only his manners saved him and dealership fines.

The officer said the unregistered vehicle charge could carry a fine of up to $1000. The officers left to go on another call and told me not to move the vehicle.

I remained there for another twenty minutes, for a total of about an hour by the side of the road, before the dealership vehicle showed up. However, instead of another rental the had just driven up in one of the dealership branded lot vehicles. I had to return to the dealership with one, while the other drove the Prius (against my polite recommendation not to). I asked why they couldn’t have brought a new rental and a rental agreement, they said I had to do it at the dealership.

Once I arrived they were apologetic and attempted to rent me another vehicle as quickly as possible. I said I didn’t want to sign an agreement until they told me what they could do to make this right, since I had been inconvenienced by their mistakes, and I had saved them from getting a bunch of citations and fines.

I spoke with a couple of the guys there, and unfortunately neither of them were in a position of power (the manager of the service center wasn’t there) to do anything, but they were both polite and empathetic, promising to explain the situation to the manager the next day and “go to bat for you”. I accepted this (and a slice of pizza since I was starving, and they were nice enough to offer), and signed the rental agreement and went home, arriving just over two hours from when I was pulled over.

All that happened yesterday. Today I haven’t heard from them yet. I am supposed to come tomorrow morning to pick up my car and turn in the rental. My repair bill is going to be $609.95 (Deductible on calipers – $50, New Rotors & Pads – $395.00, Brake Flush – $95, Rotate/Balance Tires – $69.95). They told me that everything but the rotate/balance is really required for the repair, and they recommended the rotate/balance.

I am pretty mad and frustrated with the experience, but other than this, I have had very positive experiences with the dealership. What is a fair resolution? What should I ask for if they don’t volunteer anything? Would it be useful to contact Toyota Corporate at any point?

Oh, and don’t bother contacting corporate. They rarely give a damn what their dealerships do. — BEN POPKEN


Edit Your Comment

  1. acambras says:

    If the dealership dudes have friends working at WalMart automotive, perhaps they can “borrow” a WalMart customer’s car for a little while.

  2. Keep talking...I'm listening says:

    I’m struggling to understand how the rotors were not covered as part of the warranty repair, if the defective part was the calipers and caused the damage. That’s like having an engine that blows because the transmission locked up…and then saying they’ll replace the transmission, but not the engine under warranty.

    I can understand the pads not being covered as they are a typical wear item.

    My best friend is an ex-Toyota service writer and he hated his job–which was basically to hose the customer. He worked for 2 different Toyota dealerships and they were both the same…try to sell pre-bundled service packages as a ‘discount’ (3/4 of the package was unneeded work) and try to get the customer to accept the least amount of warranty work to get by.

  3. scavenger says:

    I’m shocked to see your comment at the end of this fellow’s letter Ben. Toyota, more than any other company I’ve ever heard of, cares deeply at the highest levels about the customer experience in its dealerships.

    I’ve had a Lexus for 14 years, and in all that time I’ve only had to escalate above the dealership once (a scuzzy service guy tried to get me to buy a $1,000 part I didn’t need) and they were highly apologetic, promised to look into it, refunded my diagnostic fee, and did all of those things within 48 hours.

    Maybe I had a rare experience, but I think if you contact Toyota corporate they will definitely help out.

  4. PDQ says:

    I’d complain to the President of the dealership. The service department manager apparently isn’t minding the store as far as the status of his rental cars and he/she could get the dealership in a helluva lot of trouble. The dealership owner/president should be made aware of it and you should ask him for concessions on your repair.

    If you get the runaround there you might try letting the relevant state agency know about the mixing and matching of license plates and cars. Who knows what their inspectors would find if they did a little surprise inspection of the dealership?

  5. Plaid Rabbit says:

    JESUS – $400 for a new set of pads and a rotor? I assume they only had to replace one – both didn’t break, did they? The odds of having two broken calipers are really really low.

    Do yourself a favor and find a new shop (non-dealership would be best), regardless of they way they treated you – I mean, that’s just an additional reason, but you got SERIOUSLY hosed on that deal.

  6. Rajio says:

    Lets not go overboard Ben, they should take care of his bill for him, sure. Provide him with a new loaner, sure. A formal apology perhaps. Anything beyond that seems unessecary.

  7. brooklynbs says:

    Years ago, I rented a car from a local car rental place in Georgia (this was in the mountains in the north and there was no national chain within 100 miles) and intended to drive it Washington, D.C. Everything was fine until I got just north of Roanoke, Virginia. That’s when a friendly Virginia State trooper pulled me over.

    To my dismay, he pointed out that the registration on the car had expired. In fact, it had expired almost a month earlier. This was bad news because he would have to impound the car, which was loaded with personal belongings that had been in storage.

    Thankfully, the trooper understood the situation. He let me pass without a ticket and in the process, gave me his business card (yes, cops have business cards) attached to a note explaining what happened. He told me to show the note to any other police officer who pulled me over, but he could not promise anything.

    When I arrived in D.C., I called the car rental agency and they were apologetic, but said they couldn’t get me a new registration until I returned.

    On my return trip – and after skulking around the D.C. area for a week hoping no police officer noticed the expired registration – I was pulled over three times (twice in Virginia and once in Tennessee). I produced the trooper’s letter each time and explained the situation, and each time I was let go without a ticket.

    When I got back to Georgia, I did two things: Went to the car rental agency and made sure I didn’t pay a dime; and, I shipped off a nice package of local goodies (turkey jerky, honey, wine, etc.) to the trooper who originally pulled me over and gave me the letter.

    Moral of the story: Check the registration on your rental car!

  8. RetroChristal says:

    At least you got a slice of pizza. I once rented a car from Enterprise that had tags that were 3 months expired. I got a ticket while at lunch with a friend, and decided to run it back over to the location because it wasn’t that far away. Not only did they give me a crappier car then the one I came in with, but I had to wait an hour for it and then they tried to make me pay for not refilling the gas. Luckily, I managed to loudly talk them out of it.

    The repair bill is an entirely different story.

  9. aiken says:

    Er, so is this Toyota at fault, or an independent dealership? The headline says it’s Toyota’s fault; the article says it’s a dealership and that one shouldn’t bother contacting corporate. Who are we supposed to be angry at here?

  10. DjDynasty says:

    It’s 100% Toyota’s Fault here. They could have gotten at least $1,000.00 fines. The Breaks and rotors could be a warranty part due to the caliper breaking. You’ll pay $50.00 deducitle and the price of the tires being rotated, otherwise you can call that nice police officer back and have him write the tickets. If they call your bluff, call the police depart and ask to speak to dispatch.

  11. Addison says:

    The dealership loaned the car independent of Toyota and they are responsible for the registration independent of Toyota. Now, was the warranty purchased through Toyota or the dealership. If it was through Toyota, then contact Toyota also and tell them that you noticed a violation of contract since they are supposed to supply you with a rental car to use while yours is being serviced.

  12. yoink says:

    Wow, those costs are ridiculous (and as a former Toyota owner I know.) This whole fiasco reminds me of that Seinfeld Dealership episode.

    George Costanza: Yeah right.. I’m gonna get my car repaired at a dealership. Huh! Why don’t I just flush my money down the toilet?

  13. dandd2006 says:

    First, this has nothing to do with Toyota! The dealership bares all responsibility for the loaner.

    You seriously think that being pulled over and having to wait for the dealership to pick you up is worth $609.95? I would try to work something out with you for the one hour delay, but there’s no way you deserve over $600 in free repairs.

    I worked for a number of dealerships over the years. I’ve worked for Chevy, Nissan, Toyota, Pontiac, etc. Don’t be too quick to blame corporate for problems with the dealership. Nine times out of ten, the dealership is either good or bad, regardless of the brand on the sign.

    BTW, the dealership is really screwing you on certain items.

    Brake Flush – Won’t even be done, they’ll just top
    off as needed.

    Rotors/Pads – Not really a bad price on these. (Assuming you are replacing all four)

    Calipers – $50 won’t buy 1/2 of one at retail.

    Rotate/Balance – $70!! Total Rip-off!!!!!

  14. harumph says:

    i used to work for a toyota dealership, management is terrified of you making a stink over anything to corporate, especially if it was while warranty work was being done. they even have a special score for techs doing warranty work that, if it is a bad score, has a direct correlation to how much the service manager gets chewed out by the higher ups. talk to the service manager directly, they should kiss your ass to make you happy if you play your cards right.
    and to the previous poster, dealer parts do make a difference i have to say. the high cost of dealership work can be well worth it in a few ways. the parts are much better, trust me. also when you have a gripe, as in this case, you have more recourse to go up the chain of command.

  15. SexCpotatoes says:

    @harumph: Yeah! Because everybody knows that independent garages use cheap-o knock-off non spec. parts when they repair your car. “Parts are much better,” my ass.

  16. Bob says:

    $70 for a rotate and balance?!?! That’s a crime in itself!

  17. npolite says:

    If it was me, I’d complain that everything should be covered under warranty. I still don’t understand how the caliper caused the pads and rotor damage unless the pads were installed incorrectly and even then it really won’t cause the calipers any damage, just the rotors. Something smells fishy with this dealership. I’d consider going to someone else in the future.

    I’m just happy that I learned how to repair my cars…I could not see myself paying $600 for labor and parts when the parts themselves only cost about $250.

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