Woman glaring into open hood of car with motor and parts exposed

Are you having trouble with a car dealer or mechanic? Here’s who to turn to for help

Being able to travel by car can help people earn more, spend less, and get better value in their housing. That’s why over 1 in 20 of American Savers are saving all their money for a vehicle. But it’s also an expensive commitment, and the average American household spends, on average, over $8000 every year on car purchases and maintenance. In fact, a new car is one of the most expensive purchase many people make, up there with education and buying a home.

Ensure that you’re getting the best bang for your buck by being prepared when you first purchase your car. The Federal Trade Commission offers some great information about buying used and new cars, including short, helpful videos about how to spot deceptive ads, trading in your old car, and financing your new car. Watch the videos and learn more here.

But sometimes you just end up with bad luck and are sold a car that constantly breaks down, or you get into a disagreement with a mechanic. The Consumer Federation of American (CFA) and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI) just released their annual report on the top consumer complaints, and auto-related issues topped the list. These include misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing disputes, and towing disputes.

Here are some real-world car complaints from last year, and what you should do if you find yourself in a similar situations.

Uncertified mechanics

The problem: A Florida man brought his car to a repair shop to rebuild the transmission. When it wasn’t done properly, he returned within the warranty period, but was told it was an unrelated issue. Eventually, it was determined that the technician wasn’t actually certified, as required, to perform the necessary transmission work.  

Sound familiar? What you should do: Seek auto technicians certified by the non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. If it’s too late, contact your state or local consumer agency.

The result: After intervention from the Broward County Environmental Licensing and Permitting Division, the auto shop hired a certified technician who made the right repairs.

Unreturned deposits

The problem: An Ohio woman put down a $1,000 deposit for transmission repairs. A few days later, she was told the repair shop could not do the work because the transmission was not original to the car and the wrong model. There were many failed promises to return the deposit, including an attempt by the repair shop owner to have the bank reverse the charges, but too much time had passed.

Sound familiar? What you should do: Give the management of the auto shop a chance to making things right and resolve your problem by contacting them first. But if you need backup, turn to your state or local consumer agency.

The result: After being contacted by the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs, the repair shop refunded the woman her deposit.

Used car trouble

The problem: A South Carolina man became frustrated when the used car he purchased for $23,000 from a used car dealership needed constant repairs after just eight months of owning it to fix stalling and many other problems. Sound familiar? What you should do: Before buying a used car, have a mechanic you know and trust check it for problems. If it’s too late, see if your state or local consumer agency can intervene on your behalf.

The result: When the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs got involved, the used car dealer allowed the car to be returned and the entire purchase price was refunded.

Sold a lemon

The problem: A Georgia couple was sold a used car with low mileage that they believed had either been repossessed or was a lease turn-in. Unknown to them, it was actually repurchased under the Texas Lemon Law due to defects. The couple was asked to sign a “Resale Disclosure Statement” without understanding what it meant, and they were never given the required Georgia Lemon Law Notice for Reacquired Vehicles. The couple was surprised, then, when they were offered less than one-third of their purchase price when they tried to trade in the car just nine months later.

Sound familiar? What you should do: If you’re considering a used car, make sure to get a report from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. Be aware, though, that there could be some problems that are not revealed in the report, and some states don’t require lemons to be listed. Check with your state or local consumer agency for suggestions on what to do before singing the deal, and review tips from the International Association of Lemon Law Administrators.

The result: The dealership is now under investigation by the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Uni for how it handled the sale of a reacquired lemon vehicle.

Sold, and sold again

The problem: A man bought a used car from a Florida dealer. After it developed engine trouble within the three-month warranty period, he brought it back to the dealer for covered repairs. The dealer turned around and resold the car, without the man’s permission or knowledge. To make matter’s worse, he was unable to get his money back.

Sound familiar? What you should do: If anything your car dealer is doing seems shady or wrong, be sure to report it to your state or local consumer agency.

The result: The Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Services contacted the dealer, and was able to convince it to repair the car and return it to the owner.

Looking for more real-world examples of commons problems, like credit card fraud and phony utility companies, and their solutions? Download the CFA and NACPI report here.

American Savers are saving over $400,000 each month for a car. Join them and let us help you reach your savings and debt reduction goals. It all starts when you make a commitment to yourself to save. Take the first step today and take the America Saves pledge to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth over time. And it doesn’t stop there. America Saves will keep you motivated with information, advice, tips, and reminders to help you reach your savings goal. Think of us as your own personal support system.


Are you having trouble with a car dealer or mechanic? Here’s who to turn to for help >> http://bit.ly/2aNxal9 @AmericaSaves @ConsumerFed
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