Hammer Time: The Runaround

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

No one likes to be jerked around. Unfortunately in the car business you can meet an awful lot of jerks. The jerk arbitrating vehicles at the auto auction who says, ‘How do you know it’s True Miles Unknown?” when the Carfax history shows the odometer hasn’t moved since the Clinton administration. The jerk who tries to charge you $800 for ‘computer reprogramming’ when the repair is already subject to the open recall by the NHTSA. Then there are the really bad ones…

I once had to wait nearly eight months to get a title from an auto auction. That’s beyond an eternity in our business. It was submitted by the dealer. Got lost at the auction… and they simply never ordered another one.

I waited for months with all the usual false assurances. Frustrated beyond belief, I finally went to the dealer directly. Turns out the auction had issues far beyond ‘titles’. They were making dealers ‘take credit’ instead of refunding their money. Selling vehicles before the sale with kickbacks to certain managers (allegedly). They even managed to get their employees thrown out of a competing auction by having their salespeople ‘visit’ the auction on their day of sale.

Life is always a bit interesting on the dealer side of the business. But as for the public… what is the biggest runaround you folks have experienced?

Steven Lang
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  • Nate Gaddis Nate Gaddis on Jul 01, 2011

    The one and only bad dealer experience I have was with Carmax, and it was my own fault. The first car my wife and I bought together was a 2 year old Saab 9-3. We bought it from the local Carmax dealer for around $20k. It was my understanding that Carmax did a complete service when they took in a car, brakes, engine, everything. They don't. About 3 months after we bought the car, I noticed a terrible noise coming from the brakes. Not to mention a very obvious wobble when you hit the pedal. Turns out the rotors, calipers and pads were completely and utterly shot. No way that amount of wear happens in three months. The best Carmax would offer was to give me the parts at dealer cost, but even then I was out almost $1300 to have it fixed. Had I been more attentive during the test drive I might have noticed the noise or wobble, but I didn't and it cost me. I'll never do business with them again. Having said all that, my recent experience with a Chrysler/Jeep dealer was much better. I did my research, told the salesman how much I wanted to drive out for and he came back with a price about $300 higher than my offer. I told him to tint the windows and we had a deal. Done.

  • Banger Banger on Jul 01, 2011

    I have to add the bad vs. good experiences I had when replacing my last pickup, a '94 Nissan Hardbody that had been run into (I didn't run into them, THEY ran into ME) by a herd of 4 or 5 deer crossing the road. They came out of the median and ran headlong into the driver's side of the Nissan, which was totaled (but drivable). Not wanting to drive around on a salvage title (and absolute minimum insurance), I started looking for a replacement in earnest. I really quite liked the Ford Ranger. Best fuel economy in the compact truck class, even better than the (smaller than a Ranger) Hardbody, if you stayed standard cab, manual trans, and four-cylinder engine...all of which were just what I wanted, anyway. And the prices on CPO Rangers weren't too far out of reach. It was just a matter of finding a good one. Went to the nearest Ford dealer to see what they had in the way of late-model Rangers. They did have one, a 2006 XL fleet special, with low miles. However, they were just out of my price range. My SW (if I may use that term) had the last name Kuhl, which he pronounced "Cool." He was practically typecast for the role-- slicked-back, greasy hair and all. After informing him the 2006 was out of my price range and I was ready to move along, he of course wanted to see what else he could find for me. He first put me in a black late-90s Ranger XLT standard cab, manual trans. Not so bad, only it had the stepside bed and was a little beat up. More miles than I wanted at roughly 75,000, but I thought, hey, I got the Hardbody when it had that many miles on it, and it had been good to me for five years and another 75,000 plus miles. The kicker was, I could've paid all cash on the black Ranger and walked out with no payments. It had a check engine light because the exhaust had been "upgraded" and the cats removed. Which didn't bother me too much, only I didn't know what ELSE the CEL might be on for because of the exhaust. So I was leery of the deal after driving the truck and said no thanks. He then said he had another Ranger, only it was a green Mazda B2500 with just shy of 100,000 miles on it. Had a topper and extended cab, if I remember correctly. It was not at all what I wanted, and I let him know as much. He insisted I drive it anyway. We pulled up to the first traffic light out of the dealer, and it stalled. I had to keep the engine revved to keep it running at traffic lights-- probably a faulty idle air control valve, but you never know in these kinds of situations. Sorry, no way was I doing that. And especially not for his nearly $10,000 asking price. He must have thought I was stupid. I left that dealer, never to return. A couple weeks later, I'm thumbing through the paper and notice an ad for a Ford dealer in the next town over. They have a 15,000 mile 2006 Ranger in fleet livery (white XL trim with vinyl seats and rubber floor, plus the four-cylinder/manual trans combo, all of which I wanted). This is early 2007, so the truck's barely a full model year old. The advertised price is pretty good ($11,900), so I call to see if they still have it. They do. I talk to my bank. I get financing arranged with them at a very favorable rate-- I'd be paying for nearly half the truck in cash, leaving me with only a small payment. I didn't mind so much, as I needed to establish credit for myself. Drove to the dealer. Drove the truck. It was pristine, well-maintained. I want to do the deal. Salesman, who is very laid-back (and who let me drive the truck by myself), chats to us a minute and makes the mistake of informing us it was a local trade-in, and that its former owner was a middle-aged guy who just had to have a Mustang. Salesman wants to talk financing. I inform him of my previous arrangement with my bank, so that won't be necessary. We're here to talk price. "You said the previous owner of this truck was a middle-aged guy who traded it in on a midlife crisis Mustang, right?" I asked him. When he replied in the affirmative, I said, "So you got into this truck real good, then?" "You've done this before," he sighed. I ask if he'll take $10,000 cash for the truck. He "talks to his manager" and they decide on $10,000 cash plus my truck, which they had valued at $850 due to its salvage title. They had effectively knocked 10% off their original ad price, which was already a decent price, and I really wasn't wanting to hold on to the Nissan for any reason, so I took the deal. Lowest-stress car buying experience I could have imagined. The latter salesman's honesty and his dealer's no-BS approach earned the sale, just like the last salesman's sliminess and his dealer's all-BS approach lost it.

  • SimonAlberta SimonAlberta on Jul 02, 2011

    My worst run around was a transmission scam. My van was in dock for routine service work. When I went to pick it up the service guy told me my tranny was shot and he showed me the metal filings to "prove" it. I told him I'd never had any trouble with it and it works 100% so I would think about it and get back to him. So I went to an AAMCO transmission shop to see what they thought (big mistake!) and, of course, they "confirmed" that I needed a rebuild. So I let them go ahead - 2nd big mistake. RUN AROUND 1 - the smooth shifting unit has now been replaced by one with an upshift so hard it actually feels like someone hitting the underside of the floor with a mallet. The AAMCO manager absolutely denied there was anything wrong and that he had just built me a BETTER and TOUGHER unit. Yeah, right. After several attempts to get it re-done I finally gave up in disgust. RUN AROUND 2 - About two weeks went by when I ground to a halt due to transmission failure. Towed to AAMCO. Turns out the torque converter had failed due to a blocked oil line. Replaced under warranty but still got the rough shifting unit. I told them it was so bad it could blow out my differential. Anyway, the real point here is that the first shop probably was HONEST but mis-diagnosed the problem and AAMCO didn't even try to diagnose it. If either of them had found the blocked oil line I may well have not needed a transmission at all. Fast forward about 12 months...another shop tells me there is fluid leaking from 3 separate places in my "new" transmission. So back to AAMCO who admit the problems are failed seals. RUN AROUND 3 - They will replace them but it is out of warranty so it will be about $450, nearly half the price of the initial unit. I was furious and told them there was no way I was going to PAY them to put the same JUNK PARTS in there that they used the 1st time and I got so angry that I just had to get out of there before I did something stupid. I got the seals replaced elsewhere for about HALF what AAMCO wanted so, far from helping me out because of guilt or whatever, they were trying to RIP ME OFF EVEN MORE! About 6 months of rough shifting driving later I was left stranded again about 20 miles out of town. Turns out the pinion on my diff had sheared, no doubt at least in part because of the constant thumping from the rough shifts (of course that MAY not have been a factor but....). Final kicker....3 weeks after the above, stranded again! This time the AAMCO transmission itself had totally failed. So much for BETTER and TOUGHER. So, now I have a "factory rebuilt" unit fitted by a local small shop and it is smooth as silk and now up to about 100,000kms with no issues. Finally!

  • M 1 M 1 on Jul 03, 2011

    Dealers undoubtedly engage in all sorts of slimy, underhanded tactics, but the automotive-buying public is also the most gullible, under-educated group of consumers in the history of capitalism. It's the frigging Information Age. If people were willing to do even a tiny amount of reading and research on the second most expensive purchase of their lives, most of these issues would simply go away. I have always known exactly what I was willing to pay for a car, and that is what I have always paid. Trade-ins are a more difficult game to play, but if you stick to the rule that you don't discuss or even acknowledge that you have a trade-in until the purchase deal is sewn up, then you really can't lose. And you can always, always walk away. Christ, almost everyone walks in there ASSUMING the dealer is a scumbag who is trying to rip them off -- and they still quite literally LET IT HAPPEN. I have no sympathy for either party.