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Buyer beware

IN JULY last year, my husband bought a 1999 Toyota Prius for $10,000 at auction. Though it wasn't stated at the time, it turns out to be a Japanese model and not an Australian-delivered car. It now has a problem and we can't drive it at all. We've taken it to a couple of dealers who say they can't fix it. Do you know anyone in Melbourne who can help?

BUYING from auction leaves you little room to move if something goes wrong. It's a ``buyer beware'' scenario, and unfortunately you didn't show enough caution. The fact that it was a 1999 model -- when Toyota didn't start selling the Prius here until 2001 -- and the price was $10,000 should have tipped you off that something was amiss. Toyota's technical people say the earlier Prius is quite different to the car they sell here, with a different ECU and battery pack. The result is that Toyota dealers don't have the diagnostic equipment to determine what might be wrong with your car. Even though this is a grey import, Toyota is willing to help out if you call their customer hotline.