Lawsuit: Dealer sold “fake” warranties on used cars

Ever wonder what happens when you buy a warranty or service contract from a car dealer?  Unfortunately, some dealers just pocket the money.  Then if your car needs repairs, you are left with no coverage.  Some dealers have faced criminal penalties for engaging in this scam, but often it goes undetected.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of consumers in New Jersey alleges that a dealer in that state repeatedly sold so-called “warranties” or service contracts on expensive used cars, but failed to activate the policies.

See news report:

ABC 7 New York: Dealer of high-end used cars sold “fake” warranties

Don’t fall victim to car dealer scams.  CARS tips for how to get a good deal on a nice, safe, reliable used car — without having to set foot on a car dealer’s lot

 

One more reason NOT to buy a car from a car dealer

Even the auto dealers themselves have to admit:  many car buyers dread buying cars from auto dealers. Young people are especially wary.  And for good reason.

Car dealers keep selling unsafe, recalled used cars to consumers, putting them, their friends and family, and other motorists at risk of death or serious, debilitating injuries.

And as if that weren’t bad enough, they also insist that you surrender your Constitutional rights as part of the price of buying a car from them.

Good luck trying to buy a car from a dealer without a “gotcha” clause hidden in the contract that says you give up your Constitutional right to take them to court, and benefit from  our nation’s hard-won consumer protection laws. Like laws against rolling back odometers, selling “junk” cars that are advertised as being “in mint condition,” or engaging in other forms of cheating, lying, fraud, and thievery.

And get this:  the dealers got a special exemption from Congress — just for car dealers —  that allows them to keep THEIR Constitutional rights. So they can take anyone they want to court, and use the laws that benefit THEM. But they killed a bill that would have protected YOU from losing your rights when you sign on the dotted line to buy a car from them.

If you’re fed up with car dealers and their scams, check this out:

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Arbitration: What you don’t know about fine print can hurt you

And let your local car dealers know you’re not buying from them until they clean up their act, and you don’t have to surrender your rights to buy a car from them.

CarMax sells recalled used cars

Auto retailing giant CarMax advertises that all of its cars have to pass a rigorous, 125+ point inspection before they are fit to sell. But ever wonder if that inspection includes safety recalls?

Huh?  How could a car pass CarMax’s rigorous inspection and still have a major safety defect that makes it so unsafe, it would be a violation of federal law for it to be sold as a “new” car?

Wellll…  that’s a very good question.

Keep in mind — CarMax recently played a major role in killing first-in-the-nation legislation in California that was backed by consumer and safety organizations, to make it illegal for car dealers to sell recalled used cars to consumers.  Their excuse?  They are not authorized to perform safety recall repairs.

That’s right. Auto manufacturers don’t allow independent dealers like CarMax to perform safety recalls because under federal law, the manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that the recall repairs are done properly.  Which makes sense, since the manufacturer is the one that made the defective product, issues the recall, and oversees the repairs.  Ultimately, if the safety recall repair is inadequate, or isn’t performed properly, and someone is killed or injured as a result, the manufacturer is the one who is held liable. Witness what’s going on with GM.

So watch out. CarMax thinks it’s OK to sell unsafe, recalled used cars to consumers simply because they’re not authorized by auto manufacturers to perform safety recall repairs. Seriously.

See for yourself. Here’s the testimony of CarMax’s Counsel against the California auto safety recall bill:

CarMax:  Don’t make us stop selling unsafe, recalled used cars

Bottom line:  Don’t get snookered by those CarMax ads claiming that all their cars are “CarMax Quality Certified” and passed a “125+ point” inspection.  Unless you don’t mind the fact it could be a certified 125+ point deathtrap.

Did CarMax sell you a recalled used car? CARS wants to hear your story. Here’s how to get in touch:

Contact CARS

P.S. Even if you think your CarMax car is safe, it’s a good idea to check the manufacturer’s website for safety recalls, and enter in your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

“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.