GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Global supply shortages and inflation rates have hiked up car prices, leading many consumers to turn to used cars as a more affordable option. But buying that used car could cost you thousands in unforeseen repairs without taking the proper precautions.
In recent weeks, 9OYS has received calls from viewers saying they were scammed by local used car dealerships. Here at 9OYS, we try to investigate these claims and get answers for our community. We spoke with two local residents who are out upwards of $16,000, and they don’t want you to make the same mistakes.
Local mom Beatrice Dickens told 9OYS her daughter was approved for her first vehicle loan and was excited to purchase her own car.
“She’s pregnant so I stressed the importance of making sure she finds something safe,” Dickens said.
Even with the pre-approval from the bank, Dickens said her daughter was given just three options out of the whole car lot to make her selection. On April 16th, she paid a total of almost $10,000.
Just two weeks later, “The car will not start. No oil is in the car. She called me and said it wouldn’t start, I told her ‘Don’t drive the vehicle’,” Dickens said.
Dickens said she then called her mechanic to look at the vehicle at her daughter’s apartment.
“He told us that the motor was gone, there was nothing she could have done to the motor and that that motor had already been damaged,” Dickens said.
They went back to the dealer, this time taking their mechanic with them.
“They [the dealers] specifically asked the mechanic, ‘Was there anything she could have done to lock the motor or for the motor to explode’, they said ‘no.'”
The dealers told Dickens they were willing to pay for half of the repair costs, but after over $9,000 cash, Dickens said, “I told them that wasn’t an option.”
Another local resident who wishes to remain anonymous has a similar story with a different used car dealership. She bought a used Toyota for $7,000 as is. The very next day, the check engine light came on and they were told by local mechanics the engine was shot, and they would need $6,000 to make repairs.
When she called the dealer back, they said there was nothing they could do. Her family is now out thousands of their hard-earned money, with no working car to show for it.
The BBB says cases like these happen all too often since buyer remorse laws don’t apply to ‘as is’ purchases.
“In North Carolina, you can sell a car ‘as is’ if it’s used. So used car dealers don’t always have to provide you with a warranty. So if you purchase the car from them, and let’s say three days later is breaks down, they’re not necessarily entitled to give you a refund on that vehicle.”Nick Hill, BBB Senior Digital Marketing Specialist
That’s why the BBB recommends taking the car in for a pre-purchase inspection if you plan to buy from one of these dealers. Also, never purchase a car without seeing it in person first, and taking it for a test drive.
Hill says the two biggest scams they see are odometer fraud and the re-sale of flood-damaged cars leading to over a billion dollars in annual losses for consumers.
“It’s important that you compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage that’s indicated on the vehicle’s maintenance records,” said Hill. “Flood-damaged cars, you can get them typically a lot cheaper than your typical used car. However, sometimes scammers will take these flood-damaged cars and disguise them to make it look like it’s just any old used car.”
After Katrina in 2005, North Carolina saw an influx of flood-damaged cars coming to the state, and it happens every hurricane season. In North Carolina, a car’s title must be updated to show flood damage, but not all states are as strict on those laws. That’s why pre-purchase inspections are so vital.
Daniel Lowry, an automotive technician from Everette’s Auto in Greenville agrees.
“Take it to a shop you trust. If any dealer won’t let you take a car to get looked at by your mechanic, then you don’t need to buy a car from them,” Lowry said.
“Ask the dealer expressly, ‘was this a flood-damaged vehicle?'” NC Attorney General Josh Stein said.
When you get an independent inspection, have the mechanics look under floor mats, in air vents and more for mold or other residues that can be an obvious sign of a flood-damaged car.
“We’ve got some like 800 in the last year and a half. When we see car dealers making misrepresentations saying one thing, that the car isn’t flood-damaged when it is or any other kind of lie about that car to make the sale. If we get a complaint about them, we can take them to court, and we’ve won two cases of more than a quarter-million dollars between the two of them. And we’re investigating a national used car sale at a dealership right as I speak.”Attorney General Josh Stein
Stein said to make sure you have all the right paperwork including the title of the car, the state inspection, all repair records and any other relatable documents.
If you think you may have fallen victim to a used car scam you can file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Office and they will help you investigate those claims. The BBB also recommends checking their website for dealers’ reputations and if they are accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
Since the incident, Dickens and her daughter filed a claim in small claims court. A judge ruled on May 26 the dealer had to pay for the repairs in total. The dealer does have the chance to appeal but Dickens said it’s a step in the right direction.
The second woman now also has a court date, that is set for June 21.