Jessica Duncan said buying a used car in Fort Mill was a nightmare.
After discovering the car had issues that were supposed to be fixed by the dealer and also that she was sold the car without seeing a Buyers Guide, the Charlotte-area resident ended up returning the recently purchased car.
The Federal Trade Commission requires all used car dealers to display a Buyers Guide on any used car for sale.
According to the FTC website, the guide gives consumers purchasing and warranty information and it is required to be “prominently and conspicuously on or in a vehicle when a car is available for sale.”
LeeAnn Shattuck, owner and chief car chick at Women’s Automotive Solutions, said the guide lets a used car purchaser know how protected they are if they have problems with the vehicle.
“The biggest risk of buying a used car is you drive it off the lot and it could die an hour later,” Shattuck said. “It is truly buyer beware. Once you drive it off the lot, it’s yours. That Buyers Guide tells you whether the dealer makes any kind of guarantee or warranty claim on it.”
Most Buyers Guides are attached to the window as a sticker, tied to a mirror or placed in the windshield.
The guide must include:• Whether the vehicle is being sold “as is” or with a warranty;
• What percentage of the repair costs a dealer will pay under warranty;
• That oral promises are difficult to enforce and consumers should get all promises in writing and keep the Buyers Guide for reference after the sale;
• The major mechanical and electrical systems on the car, as well as some of the major problems that consumers should look out for; and,
• That consumers should ask to have the car inspected by an independent mechanic before purchasing.
Duncan said she found a car online and went to the dealership for a test drive. On the drive, she realized that there were issues with the air conditioner. The salesman told Duncan that the car had not yet gone through servicing because it had just been traded in, she said.
After negotiating an offer, Duncan said the salesman told her she could pick the car up once it passed inspection. She said the salesman contacted her to inform her that they were also fixing electrical issues with the car and told her what date she could pick it up.
Duncan said the car ran well for two weeks before the air conditioning went out again. She took the car back to the dealership, where a technician told her that the issue was a leak so they would have to send it in to another dealership for repairs and Duncan would have to pay for the repairs.
Duncan found the FTC requirement about the Buyers Guide and said she recalled there was no Buyers Guide on the car when she went to the dealership for her test drive. According to the FTC, a Buyers Guide can be removed for a test drive, but must be replaced as soon as the drive is over.
Duncan reported the dealership to the FTC, the Better Business Bureau and the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs. The complaint was forwarded to the dealership, which offered to buy back the car back from Duncan. She accepted the offer.
Duncan said when transferring the title of the car back to the dealership, she asked about the missing Buyers Guide and was told her car did have a one and that she signed it. Duncan said she never saw or signed a Buyers Guide and when she asked to see it, the dealership claimed it was lost.
Although Duncan received her money back for the car, she said she feels that the situation was a learning experience.
“Consumers should just know if you’re going to buy a car it has to have that window sticker,” Duncan said.
Shattuck also said used car buyers should take other steps to ensure the car they are buying is in good condition.
“The biggest thing for consumers when buying a used car is buying a Carfax report and to always have it inspected by an independent ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) master technician before you buy it,” Shattuck said. “Even then there’s still no guarantees but those two things will go a long way in helping you determine if it’s a good car.”
Shattucks’ business revolves around getting consumers the best deal on an auto purchase and making sure they are not taken advantage of. Her website is at womensautomotivesolutions.com.