10 most common consumer auto complaints

Consumer Federation of America releases most common auto complaints and solutions.


Following are real world complaints from consumers about autos and advice about what consumers could do from the Consumer Federation of America. These complaints are from the CFA's recent document, "Consumer Federation of America/North American Consumer Protection Investigators 2012 Consumer Complaint Survey Report" dated July 31, 2013. Complaints about autos were the most common type of consumer complaint.

VehicleServicePros reported on the CFA survey on 8-1-2013.

Following are the 10 most common auto related complaints.

Auto Repair Angst

An elderly Florida woman asked the Broward County Permitting, Licensing and Consumer Protection Division for help with an auto repair problem. She had paid $1,141 for transmission repairs, but the transmission still wasn’t operating properly and she was worried that the car might be unsafe to drive, so she took it to another garage. She was distressed to learn that the transmission needed to be replaced. She decided not to have the work done, but now she legitimately owed the second garage $500 for the diagnosis (and her car, which was in pieces, was undriveable). An employee at the garage agreed to buy the car from her to settle the bill, and the complaint against the first shop, which did not have an auto repair license, has been referred for legal review.

It may be a good idea to get a second opinion about a car repair, but you’ll probably need to pay for the mechanic’s time. Get a written estimate so you won’t be surprised by the charge for the diagnosis.

Mileage Mischief

Used car sales were the fastest-growing category of complaint last year at the Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection. Acting on a tip from a business associate of Atlanta Broker and Auto Sales, the agency found that the company was selling cars with the odometers rolled back and giving purchasers the federally required Odometer Disclosure Statements with lower mileage stated than the vehicles actually had. Seventeen Georgia consumers were able to either revoke the transactions or receive compensation for the reduced value of their vehicles, at their option, for a total savings of $155,887.87.

Eyeing a used car? Get its previous history so you’ll know what you’re bargaining for. Most states participate in the National Motor Vehicle Administration, through which you can get information about the title, whether the mileage that shows on the odometer is accurate, and whether the car was previously declared a total wreck. You’ll find approved companies that sell car histories at www.vehiclehistory.gov. Look at what each offers carefully before choosing.

Shake, Rattle and Roll

The Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs in California also cited used car sales as the fastest-growing complaints in 2012. One consumer noticed problems with the muffler and catalytic converter in her car within the first week that she owned it. She returned to the dealer, who claimed to fix the problems, but they only got worse, and then problems started with the alignment, brakes, and ignition. The car was shaking so badly when it came to a stop that the woman feared for the safety of her children, but the dealer refused to help. Once the agency got involved, the dealer agreed to take the car back, refund the consumer’s down payment, and rescind the contract.

Before you buy a used car, have it checked out by a mechanic you trust to look for problems that may not become obvious to you until weeks after the purchase.

Give Me a Brake

New car defects were the worst problems reported to the Consumer Assistance Office – Metro West in Massachusetts last year. In one case, the consumer complained that the car would brake without warning. The dealer could find nothing wrong, so the agency contacted the manufacturer. It installed a monitor in the car for a few weeks to try to detect the problem, and when the sudden braking did not occur, it agreed to leave the monitor in a little while longer. Unfortunately, the problem still did not manifest itself. The consumer has now reported it to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the hope that others will also complain about sudden braking and the problem can be resolved.

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