What’s the absolute worst car dealer scam?

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At a time when the price of used cars is skyrocketing, and many people are flocking to buy used cars to reduce the risks of exposure to Covid posed by public transportation, are consumers getting what they are paying for? 

Unfortunately, many of them are being cheated, to the tune of thousands of dollars. Their lives are also often at risk, and tragically, some used car buyers and their families and friends are being injured or killed.

According to the Consumer Federation of America’s 2021 Annual Nation’s Top 10 Consumer Complaints, auto transactions top the list, leading to more consumer gripes to state and local consumer protection agencies than any other product or type of transaction. It’s been the same for a long time, year after year.

These days, American car buyers are paying more, and being treated worse.

Car dealers routinely rip off consumers in numerous ways. Like:

  • Advertising cars at one price — then after you are on the lot, charging double, or more, particularly if the dealer employs “e-contracting”
  • Forging signatures on documents
  • Selling junky cars that break down soon after you buy them
  • Selling cars that fail to pass emissions tests, and pollute the air we breathe
  • Selling dangerous cars that they know were severely wrecked, while claiming they have a “clean Carfax” so they must be OK
  • “Loan packing” — charging thousands of dollars extra for high-profit items such as worthless service contracts, GAP, theft etch, and other unwanted stuff
  • Overcharging for financing, in exchange for kickbacks from auto lenders
  • Racist financing and discriminating against people of color
  • Repossessing cars, even when the buyers are making all the payments in full and on time — basically, a form of car theft
  • Selling stolen vehicles
  • Selling cars with altered odometers, and lying about how many miles they’ve been driven
  • Charging bogus, inflated “document fees” or “concierge fees”
  • Yo-yo financing — getting you to sign a contract to buy a car on good terms, then after you drive off the lot, telling you that the contract isn’t valid, or the financing “fell through,” and demanding more — sometimes under threat of arrest for “auto theft”

All of those scams are costly and risky for car buyers, especially car buyers who are from communities of color.

But the absolute worst car dealer rip-off of all is charging consumers extra for dangerous, potentially deadly unrepaired recalled cars.

It’s not only corner car lots who are foisting off seriously defective deathtraps onto used car buyers, for top dollar. It’s also huge conglomerates like CarMax and even their competitors at online “disrupters” Vroom and Carvana, who all claim their vehicles have passed a thorough inspection, but fail to get the free repairs done to fix hazardous safety recall defects that maim or kill people.

How can a car that is so defective, it’s prone to catching on fire while parked in your driveway, pass any inspection? Or a car with bad brakes that fail?  Or with a steering wheel that may come off in your hands? What kind of inspection is it, that fails to catch and fix the safety defects that are likely to kill you?

Making this outrageous scam even worse, the perpetrators of this scam claim they “disclosed” that the vehicle had an “open recall,” attempting to shift the blame — and any legal liability — onto their victims.  Of course, they know that hardly anyone reads those “disclosures,” especially when they’re hidden in a huge stack of 30 + documents that you have to sign. 

And of course, the “disclosures” are usually only in English, and don’t really convey what’s at stake. There’s no skull and crossbones. Just a lot of long-winded, legalistic jargon.

Please don’t fall for this scam. Be sure any car you buy is actually safe, before you drive it away.

Best of all, don’t even set foot on a car dealer’s lot. Experts are sharing their 12 step-by-step tips for how to buy a safe, reliable vehicle that’s free from deadly safety recall defects, for a lot less than a car dealer would charge: 12 Easy Tips from auto experts

Stay safe and save not only your $$, but also your life!!!!!

Too Risky: Buying A Car from a Dealer can Ruin Your Life

The car dealership looks like a gleaming palace. But what is really happening inside?

Some car dealers sell vehicles they don’t own. They also fail to pay off the loans on vehicles that are traded in. They ruin their customers credit and sometimes also their lives.

Robert Anglen, consumer reporter for the Arizona Republic, investigated dealerships in Arizona that ripped off consumers in multiple states, leaving them with faulty vehicles and stuck trying to make loan payments on two cars — even ones they had traded in, that were sold to someone else. Here’s what he found:

Read more: Arizona dealer didn’t pay off trades or transfer titles

How can you avoid become a victim of an unscrupulous auto dealer?  CARS tips for how to get a good deal on a safe, reliable used car, without having to set foot on a car dealer’s lot:  How to Buy a Used Car, Painlessly.

Federal Judge warns children not to buy from CarMax

During a hearing before the U.S. Federal District Court in Pasadena, California, Federal Judge Wardlaw tells CarMax’s attorney, “I have to tell you, having read what CarMax does, I have told both my children, don’t you buy a ‘certified’ car from CarMax.”

Watch video: Judge warns children about CarMax

Did CarMax sell you an unsafe recalled car?  We want to hear your story.  The only way to get CarMax to stop selling cars with lethal safety defects is for courageous consumers to speak up.  Contact us at:

http://carconsumers.org/contact.htm

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).

Federal Trade Commission — private car sellers often give “more reliable information” than auto dealers

We now have an official answer to the age-old question: Are you more likely to be misled if you buy a car from a private individual or from a used car dealer? Obviously, dealers want you to buy from them — and these days, they are boasting about their record profits.

But — auto sales remain the leading cause of consumer complaints to state and local consumer protection agencies. Year after year, new and used car dealers also rank #1 among the most-complained about businesses, in terms of consumer complaints to the Better Business Bureau.

To top it all off, the leading federal consumer protection agency for America’s car buyers recently stated flat-out that you’re more likely to get accurate information about a used car’s history when you buy a car from another consumer, rather than a used car dealer.

Here’s what the Federal Trade Commission stated:

“The Commission concluded that the [Used Car] Rule should not extend to private or casual sellers of used cars because the record failed to support a finding that deceptive sales practices were prevalent in private sales. The Commission noted that in private sales, prospective customers often receive more reliable information about mechanical condition than they do from dealers…” **

    ** Federal Register, Vol. 77, No. 242, Dec. 17, 2012, pages 74761-74762.

Of course, you still have to be on the lookout for “curbstoners” — dealers masquerading as consumers. Be sure to insist on seeing the title and registration, and past work orders from repairs, and make sure that the names on the documents match the seller’s name.

And ALWAYS, ALWAYS insist on getting the car inspected by an independent, reliable, trustworthy mechanic / body shop of YOUR choosing, before you buy. A good place to find an expert to perform the inspection? Car Talk’s Mechanics Files.

It’s a good idea to also check the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System and other vehicle history services before you buy. The more you know, the better. NEVER trust a car dealer to tell you the truth about a car.

Twelve tips for consumers on how to buy a safe, reliable used car — without being cheated by a shady car dealer:

CARS’ Twelve Tips for Used Car Buyers

Happy, safe car buying and Happy New Year!