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Elderly Tulsa couple warning buyers about used cars, warranty rules

Posted at 3:08 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 16:09:00-04

TULSA, Okla. — It could happen to any of us buying a used car: We get it checked out and it looks like everything is good, only to have the vehicle break down shortly after purchase.

An elderly Tulsa couple got an after-market warranty to cover this kind of predicament, but they quickly found out the warranty, and the law didn’t protect them.

For more than a couple of decades, the Minihans drove the same car, until it just wore out and broke down, taking a one-way trip to the salvage yard and stranding them at home.

"Here we sit, day after day," Emilia Minihan says.

Emilia and Richard finally found a new car a 2009 Suzuki which they bought from a used car lot, along with an extended warranty.

"I was so excited," Emilia says.

"Oh God, we can go somewhere, but that didn't last, didn't last."

Less than two months later the car overheated.

They had it towed to an authorized mechanic as the warranty company required. After a pressure test, the mechanic diagnosed a blown head gasket, which would be covered, but the warranty company first wanted to confirm it visibly.

The mechanic who inspected the vehicle, J.J. Dickerson says, "[The warranty company) said we need to get authorization from the customer to actually tear it down and prove that's what is going on."

What the mechanic found, threw a huge wrench into getting the warranty company to pay for the repair.

"We looked down on the block and there was previous damage a crack from cylinder 1 to cylinder 4, that tried to be repaired with epoxy, and they sold it at a car lot," Dickerson says.

The warranty company considered the pre-existing damage, and denied the claim, not paying the $950 for the work the shop had already done to tear down the engine as they had required.

After hearing the news, Emilia broke down.

"It's just not fair, I paid my payments," she says of the devastating blow for an elderly couple on a fixed income.

"To fix it it's $6,000. I'm on disability, he's on social security, we can't afford to fix it."

They even had to borrow the $1,500 down payment needed to get a 3-year loan. And more bad news came when they called the used car dealer.

"They said they want nothing to do with it -- it's not their problem."

The Minihans say that leaves them with no transportation, no money for repairs, and no money for another vehicle.

"It's like no one will accept responsibility," Emilia says.

Making it even worse, Emilia says she suffers from diabetes and macular degeneration in one eye, and possibly a blood clot behind it. And Richard suffers from emphysema.

All they can do now, they say, is pray and plead.

"Please do the right thing, you've got two senior citizens that have health problems, that can't go to the doctor, can't go to the grocery store. We're not looking for a handout, we just want someone to do the right thing."

Legally, it appears the warranty company and the used car lot aren't responsible for the repair, since state law says used cars are sold as-is and previous damage is never covered under a warranty.

We got in touch with the Oklahoma Insurance Department and the Used Motor Vehicle Commission. They still suggest the Minihans file complaints with them, just to make sure no laws or regulations were violated.

For now, Emilia and Richard just want to warn others so what happened to them, doesn't devastate someone else.

Experts recommend buyers have a used car checked out by a trusted mechanic before buying it -- but in this case, not even that would have likely picked up the damage hidden inside the engine.

Anyone who wants to file a complaint about a warranty or used vehicle can use the Oklahoma Insurance Department to complain about a warranty or the Used Motor Vehicle Commission to complain about a used car.

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