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Can I sue someone who sold me a vehicle off a Craigslist ad?

Sacramento, CA |

I recently purchased a vehicle off a Craigslist ad for $2150. The seller guaranteed the car would pass smog or my money back. There was also a written contract stating so. However, the car did not pass and now the seller refuses to give my money back. Would I be able to sue this person in small claims? Also, the person I bought the car for was not the owner, his girlfriend was, but he was the one who signed the contract and sold me the car. Would this affect the chances of my case?

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Attorney answers 3


The person who signed the contract, and selling the car, was doing so for the owner, his girlfriend, apparently. So what he did and said was for her (lawyers call this agency theory) so she generally would be legally liable. Every state that requires a vehicle to pass an emissions test generally has a law that says if it won't pass then the buyer has the right to cancel the sale and get a refund or recover damages for having to fix it so it will pass the emission test. For the amount involved, you can probably use your local small claims court. But it would be wise to talk to a local consumer law lawyer near you so you can learn more about your state specific laws and how your small claims court process works so you can handle it on your own. The modest consultation fee would be worth it so you can do the job right on your own. Or you may just want to hire them to handle it for you. Online car sales through ad listings and auctions can be a very risky way to buy a used car. You giving your money away on trust alone. But then again you know that now. You should talk to a local Consumer Law lawyer about your state laws and what your rights are, right away. Call your local attorney's Bar Association and ask for a referral to a Consumer Law attorney near you or you can go to this web site page for a Free Online 50 State National List of Consumer Law Lawyers ( and find one near you (lawyers don’t pay to get listed here and most of them are members of the only national association for Consumer Law lawyers, But act quickly because for every legal right you have, there is only a limited amount of time to actually file a lawsuit in court or your rights expire (it's called the statute of limitations), so don't waste your time getting to a Consumer Law attorney and finding out what your rights are. And before you decide to buy a used car over the internet next time, read this guide on how to avoid getting ripped off in an online car sale: If this answer was helpful, please give a “Vote UP” review below. And be sure to indicate the best answer to your question so we can all be sure we are being helpful. Ron Burdge, Attorney,,

Go to this web site page for a Free Online 50 State National List of Consumer Law Lawyers

Buying a car online? First, read this guide on how to avoid getting ripped off in an online car sale

Read this Avvo Legal Guide, How to Buy a Used Car and Not Get Ripped Off, click here

This answer is for general purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The law in your state may differ and your best answer will always come from a local attorney that you meet with privately. If you need a Consumer Law attorney, click the link above to find a Consumer Law attorney near you.


1- The owner has to sign the paperwork or the sale did not legally occur;
2- The owner has to supply proper proof that it passed smog or the sale may be voided legally;
3- Seems like you may have to sue BOTH players in small claims court;
4- Chances are good for you.


I'm sorry to hear about the problems you are having. I agree with Ron and with Scott that you are protected by the law and are entitled to take these people to small claims court. Make sure you have the written contract and the report from the smog testing place to take to court. The small claims court will have instructions that you can get that will explain the process to you, and the state has a website with more instructions:

Feel free to visit my website and read my blog for more information.

Best of luck!

Doug Sohn

Ronald Lee Burdge

Ronald Lee Burdge


Frankly, both Scott and Doug know your state laws extremely well. You should call one of their offices and set up a phone or office conference so you can get all your questions answered and know for sure what you can do and how to do it. For a modest fee, it would be well worth it.

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