WWYD: The Car Sale

In this installment of “What Would You Do?,” selling something that has problems with it. Here’s P.

What if you had a car you wanted to sell, but there was something wrong with it? Do you tell the buyer? Does it depend on what the problem is?

What if you weren’t selling it to an individual, but trading it in? Is it different to screw over the car dealership, than to screw over an individual? For a lot of folks, that might muddy their ethical river. — P.

I’m the son of a blue-collar, car-fixin’ Ford employee who would be disappointed in me if I wasn’t upfront about what I was selling. Yes, I would tell the buyer about any and all problems I was aware of. I would expect someone selling me a used car to tell me if there was something wrong with it, so I would want to extend him or her the same courtesy. It doesn’t matter what the problem is — if the bulb in the trunk needs to be replaced, I’d tell potential buyers, “The bulb in the trunk needs to be replaced.” I’m not an auto expert, so I can’t identify all the problems, but I can describe what I know (“The windshield wipers make a funny sound when you turn them on — I’m not sure why”).

As for car dealerships, they’ve driven around this block many times, so it’ll be hard to fool them. They’ll take the car for a test drive, look under the hood, and will ask all the right questions. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a terrible liar. I’d accept and sell the car for what it is, and move on to other wheels.

Email me your WWYD experiences to me with “WWYD” in the subject line. See previous installments.