CarMax sells unsafe, recalled cars

CarMax, the nation’s largest retailer of used cars, claims all its vehicles must pass a rigorous “125 point inspection.” It also advertises that all its cars are so-called “CarMax Quality Certified.”

But instead of living up to its hype, CarMax is selling LOTS of recalled cars with lethal safety defects. CarMax has a gambling addiction. It continues to play “recalled car roulette” with its customers’ lives.

Among the defects on cars waiting for sale on CarMax’s lots:

  • sticking accelerator pedals
  • catching on fire
  • hoods that fly up in traffic
  • faulty brakes
  • steering loss
  • stalling in traffic
  •  seat belts that fall apart in a crash
  • air bags that explode with excessive force and cause blindness or death

An ABC 20/20 undercover investigation found unrepaired recalled vehicles for sale on CarMax’s lot in Hartford, Connecticut. CarMax’s excuse? It can’t be bothered waiting for the FREE repairs.

Buy a car – surrender your rights?

One more reason not to buy a car from a car dealer:  when you do, they force you to give up your right to sue them if they cheat you.  So say good-bye to being able to take advantage of consumer protection laws.

Think a dealer wouldn’t dare roll back the odometer? Think again. They just slip a clause in your contract that says you can’t sue. Then when you find out your low-mileage car actually has over 100,000 extra miles that “disappeared” from the odometer — good luck trying to sue them under the Federal Odometer Act.

Car dealers used to face tough sanctions, including punitive damages, for ripping off consumers. But with rare exceptions, those days are gone.  That’s because car dealers insert “arbitration” clauses into their contracts. Then, after you’ve been shopping, test-driving cars, and negotiating for an average of 4 hours, they shove a stack of documents across a desk and tell you to “sign here, here and here.”

What they don’t tell you is that when you sign, you are giving up your rights under state and federal consumer protection laws. So forget hauling them before a judge or jury, who can throw the book at them. Instead, if you get any hearing at all, it’s before an “arbitrator” whose company just happens to be paid by — you guessed it — the dealer.

Under rulings by the Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, this is perfectly legal.

Ironically, the dealers got a special exemption from Congress that allows them to sue anyone they please. They’re free to use the courts. But you can’t.

Evidence is mounting about how biased and unfair arbitration is. Check out this new report, issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. No wonder car dealers HATE this consumer watchdog agency. It shows how rigged the game is, when you buy a car from a dealer:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report

Don’t end up like Jon Perz, who has been waiting over 7 years for justice, after a car dealer in San Diego sold him an unsafe car.

YouTube Video of used car nightmare — over 1.3 million views

Be a smart shopper. Check out CARS’ car-buying tips for how to get a safe, reliable used car — without having the hassle or risk of buying from a dealer:

CARS Used Car Buying Tips

Happy, safe car shopping!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“check engine” light woes

You’re a smart consumer. So before you buy that used car, you take it for a test drive.  You notice that there are no warning lights on the dashboard. You think everything is fine, and you buy the car.

But — shortly after you drive it home, the “check engine” light comes on. This spells trouble. BIG trouble. This scenario is playing out all over the country. It’s become a frequent complaint among used car buyers. “I just bought it and now the ‘check engine’ light is on.”  Adding to the woes experienced by consumers who are victims of “check engine-itis” — the repairs to get that pesky light to go off can cost $3,000 — $4,000 or more.

Margie Y of Hawthorne, CA contacted CARS and said she bought a used Toyota for her daughter, as a present for her 21st birthday, from a local dealership. Within a day, the “check engine” light came on. Then the alternator blew up, and the car caught on fire. When she had the partly charred Toyota towed to a mechanic, he said it needed a new alternator, catalytic converter, and solenoid — at an estimated cost of over $2400.  Money she didn’t have, since she had paid $6200 cash for the Flaming Toyota, and also traded in a vehicle that was running fine, plus had paid $300 for the tow.

Unfortunately, this story is all too familiar. So — what’s happening?  According to automotive experts, unscrupulous dealers buy “scan tools” over the internet that allow them to simply wipe out the error codes that trigger the “check engine” light. Then they sell the car.  As soon as it’s driven a short distance, the error codes register and — on goes the dashboard warning light.  Some dealers don’t bother to buy the scan tools. They just disconnect the battery, erasing the error codes and getting the “check engine” light to go off just long enough to foist the car off onto an unsuspecting used car buyer.

Not only are the dealers cheating their customers, they’re also falsifying smog test results and polluting the air. They know that chances are good their customers won’t be able to pay for the expensive repairs, and will end up driving the car despite the fact it doesn’t meet emissions standards.  The day of reckoning may come when the hapless consumer tries to register it, and it won’t pass the smog test. But by then, the dealer figures it will be too late for the consumer to take them to court.

What can you do to avoid becoming a victim of “check engine-itis”?  The most effective single thing you can do is to insist on getting your own trusted mechanic to inspect the car before you buy. They should be able to detect the fact the error codes have been wiped clean, and also do a check of the emissions system that will turn up the problems.  Where can you find a good, reliable mechanic?  Car Talk’s Mechanics Files is a terrific resource, where you can find the best mechanics in your area, based on reviews written by their own customers.

Check Car Talk’s Mechanics Files to find a reliable mechanic — before you buy

Tell the seller that you want them to take the car to YOUR mechanic before you’ll agree to buy.  If they balk at that, or try to talk you out of it, well, that’s why God gave you feet — so you can walk away from there. Pronto.  There are plenty of good used cars for sale.You don’t need to get stuck with one that will cause you hassles and headaches.