Q: I wanted to share my used car buying experience as a warning to others.
I test drove and bought a used 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan from a dealership, thinking this was safer than buying from a private party. I was wrong.
From the moment I drove off the lot, the brakes squeaked, the fan was broken, the car was rusting, the automatic door on the one side was broken and the tires were bald. Granted, I should’ve done more due diligence, but I couldn’t believe this was a certified used car.
After taking it back numerous times for squeaking brakes (I assumed new brakes were put on when I bought the car), I escalated the matter to the sales manager. The dealership said, in fact, that the brakes aren’t new and only need to be at 50 per cent on used cars.
My mechanic later found the tires on the car are 11 years old.
They offered to install used replacement tires that don’t fit, which will affect my ABS and the odometer.
I told them to come up with a better solution. They stopped returning my calls.
A: James Hamilton, manager or mediation services for the Used Car Dealers Association of Ontario (www.ucda.ca) replies:
Sometimes retailers of used cars could possibly manage consumer expectations better. In this case, for example, the buyer was under the impression that her used car would come with new brakes. The dealer could have explained that a vehicle in Ontario can have far less than a 100 per cent brake pad or 100 per cent tire tread and still meet minimum provincial safety standards.
While rust on the vehicle was likely apparent to the buyer when she viewed it before buying, most dealers would be willing to help with a complaint about a broken fan or door, “the moment she drove off the lot.”
While used replacement parts may be installed — it is a used vehicle that the consumer has purchased after all — these parts still have to be proper and safe for the vehicle.
Consumers who are unable to resolve their concerns with a dealership may request free UCDA mediation of their complaint by calling 416-231-2600 or 1-800-268-2598.
Eric Lai adds:
Perhaps used cars aren’t for you. All used vehicles will have wear and tear.
A safety certificate only means a vehicle met minimum provincial standards on the date of inspection. It’s not a guarantee that a vehicle won’t need repairs soon afterward.
To avoid surprises, used cars should be inspected by your mechanic prior to purchase.
If immediately broken, the fan and power door should be repaired by the dealer. And, yes, they might utilize used replacement parts.
Neither the brakes nor the tires must be addressed by the dealer unless these didn’t meet safety standards — which they apparently did at time of inspection.
In any case, squeaky brakes can occur even on new vehicles and replacing them is no guarantee of eliminating the issue. Don’t confuse this noise with audible wear indicators, which emit a grinding sound when brake pads are worn out.
Got a beef? Send it to Eric Lai at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include year, make, model and kilometres of autos cited, plus your name, address and telephone number. Personal replies cannot be handled due to volume.
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