11 Listens: Purchasing a used car can come with risks

11 Listens: Used car dealerships

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- What options are drivers left with if a recently purchased used car breaks down?  11 Listens takes a deep dive into the used car purchasing process.  We talk to Arkansans who felt cheated by dealers and the Arkansas Attorney General who offers helpful advice. 

"It looked perfect, and it had good miles on it,” said Tonya Franklin.   However, the car purchase quickly turned into much more than Franklin bargained for. 

"About five months later, it broke down on us while we were driving down the road.  We ended up having to push it back home."

Her 2007 Chrysler Sebring has been sitting in her driveway ever since.

"It was very scary because we had our two children in the car, and we were turning.  In that turn, the whole car just turned itself off."

Their only means of transportation was gone in less than six months.

"The gear that's as far as it will go; it won't go nowhere else."

Franklin said she had a motor warranty, but when she called the dealer who sold the car they refused to offer help.  

"They told us there wasn't [anything] they could do; they couldn't help us they couldn't do anything."

They were told to tow the car back to the "buy here, pay here" lot, but  Franklin said they couldn't afford to.  And with no way to get to work or school, they were forced to lean on others for rides.

This is one of many stories the Attorney General's office receives.

"It's one of our largest issues that individuals across the state call and file complaints about,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.  She said her office has received 250 complaints on automobiles over the last six months.

"There is a misconception that buyers have ability to return a vehicle once purchased under state or federal law, and there is no ability under state or federal law to do that."

The state of Arkansas does have a lemon law, but it only pertains to new vehicles.  So, buyers who have issues should hire an attorney or call the Attorney General's office right away.

"Our department here at our office will investigate and impose fines depending on the business and the scope of the activities," promised Rutledge.  

However, there are things buyers can do to ensure they get a reliable car.

“Often times we get a little too excited over a good car deal, but before you make that purchase find a good mechanic.  Experts say an inspection is the first thing you'll need to get done," said Rutledge.

Donnie Van Patter, a local used car dealer and owner of Donnie's Foreign Repair Shop, said make sure the mechanic isn't associated with the dealer.

An inspection, he says, would cost about $100.

"There [are] times I reject cars and say its not worth buying, and there's times it's a good car, go make the deal.   It's a good car, but it's very smart to have that done upfront," said Patter.  "We go over the entire car computer system, wiring checking for accidents, flood damage, everything on the car."

Patter also advices against placing full trust in a used car warranty.

"A lot of times the extended warranties you buy aren't worth the paper their written on, so you have to be careful have a professional look at it before you buy it."

Something Franklin wishes she would've done. And even now, she recalls a red flag.

"I think whenever we seen the check engine light come on, we should've stopped right then."

Instead, she trusted the dealer who said it wasn't a big deal.  While she never imagined her used car buying experience would turn into a nightmare, it's a lesson learned, as she and her kids are now able travel in a new vehicle.

The new car is one that she said they can barely afford, but does give her peace of mind on the road.

"I feel a lot better because that one, I know that we can count on and won't be stuck with our kids in."

 

If you are having used car problems or issues with an auto dealer, please contact the Attorney General's office at (501) 682-2007 or on the website.


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