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!!!!!

Why can’t you buy a new car without going to a car dealership?

Car dealers and corrupt politicians conspire to keep consumers captive, forcing them to go to greedy car dealerships to purchase a new car. This outrageous monopoly costs American car buyers billions of extra dollars each year.  Plus it often ruins lives when dealers engage in fraud, deception, or sell cars with killer safety defects.

truTV’s  Adam Conover, famous for his riffs on “Adam Ruins Everything,” explains “The REAL Reason Why Car Dealerships are the Worst”

What can you do to break free from the car dealer monopoly? Well, if you are buying a USED car, you don’t have to go there. You can usually get a much better deal on a nice, safe used car without having to spend 4 – 6 hours being tormented by a greedy car dealer.  This is how some of the nation’s leading consumer advocates buy a car — without the hassles and risks that come with buying from a professional crook:

12 Tips for how to get a good deal on a nice, safe used car

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!