Man Gets Defective Mini Refunded With Awesome And Polite Letter

At first he thought it was an earthquake, being in California and all. Then Eric realized, no, it was his Mini Cooper that was violently shaking.

Eric’s Mini was a lemon. In less than a year of owning the car, Eric experienced all sorts of problems, from the shaking, to the power steering going out, to several problems with his VANOS solenoid going out. So Eric decided to get BMW to take the car back and give him a full refund, as is allowed under “lemon law.” He’s not a lawyer, just a consumer who wanted a fair deal and used online research to figure out what to do, and how to win. For example, here’s the letter that got BMW to give him his money back and take the car off his hands:

He documented his whole experience over at Check it out and learn how to protect yourself under lemon law.


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  1. valthun says:

    Good for him, I am happy that it turned out great for him. The one i had only had one problem on really hot days the washer fluid would weep out of the jets. Other than that I had no problems. Glad the Lemon Law worked for him.

  2. FooSchnickens - Full of SCAR says:

    The only reason I’d ever drive a Mini is if it were on a lease and had a full warranty. Those things are service timebombs that can go off at any second.

    Good on him for taking matters into his own hands. Most people would just call it a loss and try to trade it in or sell it off to the next sucker.

    • mannyv says:

      @FooSchnickens – BPH Free:

      “The only reason I’d ever drive a Mini is if it were on a lease and had a full warranty. Those things are service timebombs that can go off at any second”

      Any data on that? You could say the same thing about any car build in the US.

      • FooSchnickens - Full of SCAR says:

        @mannyv: @Mobius: I worked on Minis for the better part of three years and have seen everything from lug nuts shearing off to the engine catastrophically failing in the parking lot as they pull in.

        Plus, when something “goes wrong” it’s rarely a single part that gets replaced. Take the soft tops, for example. A common issue on those is that one or both of the cables snap, typically when the top is half open/closed. BMW doesn’t bother stocking the cables because they make more money selling you the whole top assembly instead. So you could just pay $80 or so for a new cable (I’m guessing there because BMW wouldn’t give me a price on that part no matter how many times I asked) a few hours of labor and be done with it for several hundred dollars out the door. Their solution is to have you buy the whole magilla for $2700 and then pay a couple hour’s labor to install it.

        They’re outstanding cars from a driver’s perspective, but from a service standpoint they’re a nightmare. Any car that requires you to remove the entire front bumper, bumper support and several other components just to replace a suspension bushing should probably have spent a bit more time on the drawing board.

        • 2 replies says:

          @FooSchnickens – BPH Free:
          “They’re outstanding cars from a driver’s perspective, but from a service standpoint they’re a nightmare.”

          That’s the point of a product.
          It’s designed to be pleasing for the DRIVER, not the mechanic.

          “Any car that requires you to remove the entire front bumper, bumper support and several other components just to replace a suspension bushing should probably have spent a bit more time on the drawing board.”

          Again, they design cars for those that buy them, not for those that fix them. If they build cars to make the mechanic’s job easier every vehicle would be an abortion of aesthetics. And I for one don’t want to drive a Pompidou Center down the road.

          Considering this is consumerist and not mechanist, this should go without saying.

          • FooSchnickens - Full of SCAR says:

            @2 replies by: Your first question I already answered earlier.

            I think you’re missing another aspect of pleasing the driver. Not only should the driving experience itself be taken into account, but also how often that experience is able to be taken advantage of (or how often it has to spend the night at the shop). Having to pay several hundred (or thousand) dollars and having to be without my main mode of transportation for a day or more isn’t high on my list of things to do. Sure, you get a comp vehicle sometimes or are reimbursed for a rental.

            Also, making the mechanic’s job accomplishes two things: keeps the customer’s cost down and frees up that tech quicker for other jobs. When a majority of front-end jobs require 2+ hours of labor before you are able to even access the part means many people will be scratching their head over the estimate and wondering why something is billed so high. Then they go to the dealer. That’s priceless seeing their expression when they return.

        • CFinWV says:

          @FooSchnickens – BPH Free: Funny, cause usually when you work on cars you do tend to get only the ones that need fixing. Just saying.

        • nucwin83 says:

          @FooSchnickens – BPH Free: There are issues with MINIs, but they’re almost never catastrophic. Early models with the midland transmission had issues. Some of the automatic CVTs (2002-2006 MINI Cooper, non-S) have seen failures as well. MINI has addressed each of these, first by switching to the Getrag manual and moving to Aisin automatics in the regular Cooper. On the new models, most issues I’ve seen and heard of are minor annoyances. The only widespread ones I’ve seen are ‘cold start rattle’ (makes you think you have a diesel) and window reprogramming, where the window senses something non-existent in the way when it rolls up and decides to roll back down.

          I don’t like the assembly sales any more than you do, but it’s standard procedure, even in their own shops, because if a part failed within a specific assembly, there is an increased likelihood of failure of an associated part. Better to replace the whole assembly and rule out any other issues than to replace one part and have to see the car back in the shop the next week.

    • Mobius says:

      @FooSchnickens – BPH Free: I’ve had a MINI Cooper S for 4 years and have only had a couple minor problems with it that were taken care of quickly and without difficulty (Broken windshield and strange noise from the transmission which they used as an opportunity to completely replace out the clutch free of charge). I’ve only had to pay for one oil change out of pocket. So far, I’ve been exceptionally pleased with the car and would easily buy another.

    • docvb says:

      @FooSchnickens – BPH Free: Doubly strange that the MINI pretty much has the highest resale price of any vehicle.

      (Or is it just that the options are so expensive it only seems a 4 year old car is worth more than the base sticker price?)

      • FooSchnickens - Full of SCAR says:

        @docvb: The reason for that is people offloading the so soon after buying them. Many don’t realize that they really bought a BMW and can’t keep up with the cost of ownership.

    • 2 replies says:

      @FooSchnickens – BPH Free:
      I would like to know what makes you believe they are service timebombs.
      Especially since you saying you would never drive one kinda implies you’ve never had any experience with one.

  3. VidaBlueBalls says:

    If you have a defective mini, doesn’t that make you less than average?

    Try the veal!

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    What an excellent example of how to evoke the lemon law. A very well-worded and precise letter.

  5. spazztastic says:

    I just read the linked article, and the guy, for some reason, wants ANOTHER MINI! I can understand that from a customer service standpoint, all the right things were done, but why would you go for a another car from the same company after the problems you had?

    • treimel says:


      It’s not so crazy–just because you happened to get one lemon mini doesn’t mean they all are. I’ve known lots of perfectly satisfied Mini owners.

    • nonsane says:

      @spazztastic: From my experiences with mini’s i believe this is an exception to the rule.

      Props to BMW on making it right. After all sh*t happens.

      • oneliketadow says:

        @nonsane: Perhaps the Consumerist can confirm, but I believe that Consumer Reports ranked the Mini pretty low from a repairs required/quality POV.

        • RedwoodFlyer says:

          @oneliketadow: Consumer Reports quality ratings a slightly misleading. They count number of defects, but not magnitiude. They also don’t take warranty vs. non-warranty fully into account.

          I would much rather have my rear sunshade make a grinding noise and the thigh support motor go out (both problems the car’s been in the shop for) fixed under my 4 year warranty than have 1 head gasket blow.

      • ktetch says:

        @nonsane: Now if only BMW could make things right with the $500 alloys they’re making people buy over and over in the uk, because they can’t stand up to British Roads []

  6. dfellars says:

    Something similar happened to my wife and my VW EOS, which we bought used with 700 miles on it but as a “Certified Used Vehicle.” VW not only bought back the vehicle but gave us an additional $5000 credit and $1000 dealer cash towards a new VW. We are now the proud owners of a Brand new Tiguan that is the perfect size for us and our new baby.

  7. johnrhoward says:

    How is October 27, 2007 to September 24, 2009 “lees than a year?”

  8. shadow67 says:

    “I found a voice mail from Nancy, the sales manager at MINI of Mountain View, on my cell phone the next evening, although I had not received any calls (thanks, AT&T).”

    No escape for ATT these days…

  9. osiris73 says:

    Foo-Schnickens – My wife drives a Mini Cooper Clubman. She and I both LOVE the thing. We’ve had it for about a year now and have had zero issues with it. Minis used to have quite a few issues and had a high cost of ownership. USED TO. You should invest some time looking into how things are with them NOW before making such statements. Try looking at their maintenance faq. Its the same as a BMW’s. []

  10. Petrol42 says:

    It’s obvious to me being a car guy that Foo-Schnikens is a car guy himself, and on top of that he seems to be a mechanic.

    The rest of you guys are a bunch of armchair quarterbacks. From reading the comments, I could tell that almost all of you guys and gals don’t know much about cars and this is very similar in my everyday life when I talk about cars with other people. MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW JACK ABOUT THE CAR THEY’RE DRIVING.

    A common question I have for everyone that owns a car is “have you read the owner’s manual?” and out of the 50 or so people that I have asked over the years, only 1 person has told me they read their car’s owner’s manual.

    Take oil changes for example. Does 3 months or 3000 miles sound familiar? This is what’s been shoved down every american’s throat as far as I remember but according to my car’s ownner’s manual, it says under normal driving conditions to change the oil at 1 year or 7500 miles. I’ve been following the recommendation from my owner’s manual and my car which I bought new is 12 years old with 190,000 miles on it and it feels like it’ll at least do another 100,000 miles.

    So back on topic about the Cooper. Foo-Schnickens sums the Cooper up best when he says:

    “They’re outstanding cars from a driver’s perspective, but from a service standpoint they’re a nightmare.”

    I’ve never driven a Cooper but I hear they’re just SO FUN to drive. Man I really wanna try one.

    Foo-Schnickens also says:

    “Many don’t realize that they really bought a BMW and can’t keep up with the cost of ownership.”

    Cost of ownerships is the biggest factor that EVERYBODY never factors into a new vehicle purchase.

    Average price for maintenance on a Benz or any other luxury or sports car is considerably more than that of a Honda.

    And one last thing. spazztastic says this:

    “but why would you go for a another car from the same company after the problems you had?”

    Same reason some dudes always go for the hottest chicks.

  11. TheSurlyOne says:

    A good buddy of mine bought a 2004 Ford F-150 when they first came out (despite my advice against buying a first year model). When it was only a few weeks old, the rear axle began making a roaring noise that increased over time and eventually developed a horrible vibration/shake to go with the noise.

    He took it back to the dealer eight times over a 10-month period trying to get it resolved. They replaced tires, rear suspension, all parts of the rear axle, wheel bearings and eventually the entire 4WD system, to no avail.

    That’s when he asked me to look into the Georgia Lemon Law and I began the process. After three or more attempts to repair the same specific issue, the law requires that you send a detailed letter with all repair attempt information and allow the manufacturer one more chance to fix it. Within two weeks, he took it back in for the final attempt and an engineer from the factory actually met us. He spent an hour or so with the truck and finally conceded that there was no known fix for the problem.

    They offered my buddy two choices- a buyback, which was only $2200 less than his purchase price (and it was almost 11-months old and had 18k miles at this point) OR an equal/better 2005 version of the same truck. He took the 2005 and ended up with an identical model (F150 SuperCrew Lariat 4×4). It showed up with a heated seats, a 6-CD changer, Homelink and several other small extras that the original didn’t one didn’t have- at no charge!

  12. hwmint says:

    I wish that MINI would own up to their defective CVT transmissions, like Nissan is doing.


    My 2003 MINI was one of the many to blow its CVT, at only 88,000 miles. MINI’s response was “That car is too old for us to worry about, you’re out of warranty, sucks to be you.”