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Is a verbal agreement to purchase a vehicle binding in Iowa.

Cedar Falls, IA |

I had a verbal aggreement with Dan Deery Toyota to purchase a vehicle. I started working this deal in person on a Wednesday but the vehicle had an issue that needed to be fixed. I informed the salesman that I would be out of town until the following Monday. I called on Thursday and left a message since the salesman was gone. They called me on Friday and made me an offer on the car as is. I countered their offer and they accepted my offer. On Saturday just before they closed they called and told me the car was sold to someone else. Do I have any recourse in this situation?

FYI.. My offer was accepted by them on Friday. I told them I would pick up the car the following Monday. I plan to go to the dealership to complete my end of the contract even though I know the car is not there. I want to note that I went back to Dan Deery Toyota and they have given me an exceptional deal instead of the original one after some discussions. This doesn't happen very often and I have to commend Dan Deery Toyota for doing the right thing.

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Attorney answers 1


Probably not. When is an oral contract for the sale of a motor vehicle enforceable? Almost never. In most states a contract for the sale of a motor vehicle must in writing and signed in order to be binding. It does not have to be much of a writing, but it generally must be something that says what the basic terms are. If nothing was written down on what the agreement was, then the only exception that most states will accept to the “get it in writing” rule is when the “innocent” side of the agreement has substantially performed their end of the bargain (such as paying most of the price to the buyer). If so, then they might be able to recover back their money or enforce the sale (if the vehicle has not been sold by then). If the seller is a car dealer and the buyer is a consumer or in a few other special circumstances, the consumer may even have the right to recover more than that and maybe even make them pay the attorney fees too. The reason for the rule requiring a written document generally is that since all motor vehicles have a title, and the title is the only way a person can prove legal ownership, if the law allowed anyone to claim they had a deal to buy someone else’s vehicle, then anyone could claim that you agreed to sell your $70,000 luxury car for only $30,000 because you liked them or wanted the money bad or whatever lie they might dream up. And then it would be a matter of who a jury might believe instead of requiring it to be very plain and clear by being in writing. Of course, if you’re the potential buyer, then you may miss out on a deal too, if you don’t get it in writing. Still, this is just the general rule and some states have special exceptions to the rule. You need to talk to a local Consumer Law attorney who deals with this kind of case. Call your local attorney's Bar Association and ask for a referral to a Business or 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. If this answer was helpful, please give me a “thumbs up” below. Ron Burdge,,