Car dealership horror stories
Sold! (but not to you)
During his car search, Sean Coffey found a Honda Accord at a local dealership in Berkeley, California. As every car buyer should do (but often doesn’t), Coffey elected to have a pre-purchase inspection done prior to signing on the dotted line.
The inspection cost Coffey $75 (which is slightly below the average cost of car inspections), but while the process was underway, the dealership sold the car out from underneath him.
Coffey claims his “salesman was apologetic, but it sounded like the manager did it, and was par for the course with his approach.” After all, why wait and see what the inspection would uncover when another customer was willing to buy the car as-is?
Coffey’s recommends would-be car buyers write out a contract to buy the car contingent on it passing a pre-purchase inspection or not requiring repairs over a specific cost. “That way,” he says, “if there are bigger expenses, you can either walk away, or renegotiate the price.”
When Alyssa Connolly decided to sell her car, she started to reach out to local dealerships, only to discover that no dealer would buy it because the Carfax report flagged it as having incorrect mileage. Her dealership’s service department, she discovered, had misdocumented the car’s mileage, changing “1xxxx” miles to “2xxxx” inadvertently – clearly a huge discrepancy when reported to Carfax, and one that other dealers would assume was fraudulent.
Though the mileage was corrected during a subsequent service, the accurate alteration was never submitted to Carfax. During her attempt to sell her car, Connolly visited the service center and was given a corrected service history, signed by the manager, who documented the mileage issue as “human error.”
Still, other dealerships refused to purchase the car from Connolly at a market value corresponding to its proper mileage, and Toyota Customer Service put the burden of correcting the Carfax report on Connolly – with the added information that it could take upwards of one year for Carfax to correct the error, despite her lease ending within two weeks.
Connolly again returned to the Toyota dealership and was told that no attempt had been made to correct the error with Carfax and that she could sell it back to them – at a price well under its market value.
Connolly’s takeaway from the frustrating experience? Check the service records after every service and immediately bring attention to anything inaccurate or misreported.
Kirk Herzog visited a local dealership in Van Nuys, California, and was greeted by a kind employee who asked him about his trade-in. Herzog handed his keys over so the staff could take a look at the vehicle and provide him with an estimate of its value.
While he waited, a salesman showed Herzog what cars were for sale, all of which were out of his price range, even after being told the estimate of his trade-in. The salesman ignored Herzog’s budget and continued showing him cars out of his price range.
“I told him that since he was trying to sell me what he wanted me to buy and not what I wanted to buy that I wanted to leave,” Herzog says of the experience. The dealership again ignored him, refusing to give him his keys back as salesman after salesman walked over, trying to pressure Herzog into making a purchase not within his budget.
Finally, Herzog demanded his keys back and “ran out.” If you’re in the market for a new car, “Never, ever give them your keys,” he says.
Cash or GTFO
After someone crashed into him and totaled his truck, Dan Mattia was in the market for a new used car. Though Dan had a small bit of cash thanks to his insurance payout, Dan still needed to finance any purchase.
Dan went to a local car lot, desperate for a cheap car to get him back and forth to work. The place looked like the perfect setting of a crime film – dimly lit and unwelcoming. Still, he wanted to consider all his options.
The inside of the dealership’s small office was cold and uninviting, and no one really seemed interested that Dan was there. After finally getting someone’s attention, Dan was told that the dealer only sold cars to customers who could buy a car in cash right then and there.
While they very well may have been a legitimate business, something seemed off about the situation, and he followed his gut and soon left.