Pasadena, CA asked in Consumer Law and Contracts for California

Q: I had an agreement with a large used car dealership to purchase a car. Now they won't sell? Verbal contract enforceable?

My wife and I went to buy a used car from a major used car dealership in southern California. We told the salesman we wanted to buy the car. We asked if we could have the car (2014 Subaru Outback) inspected by a local Subaru dealer before making the purchase. They said yes. We asked if we should make a down payment. The salesman said, no, if you’re going to have the car inspected we are fine with that; we will complete everything once the car is returned.

The used car dealership gave us a number of false/misleading statements. Much of this is documented in text messages between my wife and the salesman. Agreed to do needed service, then didn’t. Now, 2 weeks later, they say they won’t sell. Seems like there is verbal contract with text support/proof. Is verbal contract enforceable?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Gerald Barry Dorfman
Gerald Barry Dorfman
  • Mill Valley, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: A verbal sales contract for a car is theoretically enforceable. However, the actual understandings of the party are key. So, the precise words used are going to matter. From just what you have said here, it is not possible to conclude that there was a "meeting of the minds" to form a contract. If, for example, the dealership was willing to allow you to have it inspected, did they agree in advance that they would repair whatever problems were found? That seems unlikely. Were you willing to buy the car at an agreed price no matter what problems were found? Also unlikely. So they could reasonably argue that while there were negotiations, there was no agreement to sell, particularly if critical terms were not agreed to. However, these are just general observations, and in order to obtain a legal opinion, you really need to provide all your documentation to an attorney and have a serious consultation.

Yelena Gurevich agrees with this answer

1 user found this answer helpful

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