10 most common consumer auto complaints

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


Complaints against car dealers were the worst reported to the Union County Division of Weights and Measures/Consumer Affairs in New Jersey last year. One elderly man was so upset about his car problem that he couldn’t eat or sleep. The problem began when he responded to a dealer’s advertised promise to give a $4,000 credit toward the purchase of a new vehicle for any car that was driven, pushed or pulled into the lot. The same ad listed the new car that he wanted for $14,999. Once at the dealership he was told that that car was no longer available but there was another one that was the same model. There was no Monroney sticker or price on the car, but he believed it was the same price. With the $4,000 credit and $2,000 that he was going to use as a down payment, he would only need to finance the remaining $9,000. But by the time he left the lot he owed $46,000. When the agency questioned the dealer about why there was no Monroney sticker or price on the car, it admitted that the sticker was in the trunk and that the listed price was $20,000. The deal was unwound and the man got the car for $14,999.

Federal law requires the Monroney sticker to be posted on a side window or the windshield of all new cars for sale. It tells you the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, the price of any optional equipment on the vehicle, the miles per gallon, the crash rating, and other important information. If you don’t see it, walk away. And if you suspect that a dealer is using false advertising to lure you in and switch you to a more expensive deal, don’t take the bait – report it to your state or local consumer protection agency.

'As Is' Means Tough Luck

Used car sales were the worst complaints to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office last year, and in many cases they involve “as is” sales, which are legal in the state. One man reported that when he went to a dealership with his son, a veteran, to buy the son a car, the dealer clapped and thanked the son for his service to the country. But the car he sold them turned out to need more in repairs just to pass state inspection than it was worth, and had no guarantee. The man testified before a legislative committee that was considering prohibiting “as is” sales, but the auto dealers successfully blocked the measure.

Before you buy a used car from a dealer or an individual, get information about your warranty rights from your state or local consumer protection agency. Some states allow dealers to sell used cars “as is” as long as that is clearly disclosed, which means that the seller may have no responsibility—another reason why it’s important to have the car checked out by a mechanic you trust before you commit.

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