Know How to Protect Your Used Car Purchase

NBC Connecticut Responds found several laws many consumers didn’t even know about when it comes to buying a used car.

“I just feel like they took advantage of me,” said consumer, Maria Hart.

Hart is a hard working single mother, trying to put her daughter through college.

“We share a car, she goes to college full-time I work full time and she works part time and we needed something reliable that we both could share and use,” said Hart.

She poured her hard-earned cash into a 2008 Nissan Altima. It looks shiny and new but it’s a clunker that didn’t come cheap. She bought the car for $7,500 at Empire Auto in South Windsor.

“A couple days after I bought the car, I noticed that the breaks were squeaking and there was a grinding noise and I brought it back it was within that week that I bought the car,” said Hart.

Hart said Empire Auto told her the problem was fixed but it wasn’t long before the car was back in their shop. It was six times over the course of five months; once for a broken catalytic converter, next for a bad transmission, then again for a leak in the new transmission.

Each time, she was without a car and relying on friends for transportation. Frustrated, she filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau, the Department of Consumer Protection and NBC Connecticut.

The manager at Empire Auto declined to speak on camera but said he sold the car in “as is” condition.

According to Connecticut law, a dealer has the right to sell a vehicle in “as is” condition, if the car is more than six model years old or bought for under $3,000. Hart’s car is eight years old.

“The dealership is still required to do a comprehensive safety inspection and they’re supposed to give the consumer a certification that the vehicle is safe and proper for use on Cpnnecticut highways and roads,” said Dan Blinn with the Consumer Law Group.

Blinn with the Consumer Law Group said if dealers don’t provide that documentation, it’s considered unfair trade practice and they can be fined $500.

I showed Hart a copy of the inspection form Blinn said she should have received. She said she’s never seen it before.

When we asked Empire Auto for a copy of the inspection for Hart’s car, they said they would send it but they never did. NBC Connecticut calls haven’t been returned.

For their own protection, consumers can print the inspection form right from the DMV’s website, and have the dealer sign it.

They should also ask about the history of the car and if it’s been in an accident.

But make sure to get it all in writing.

Dan Blinn with the Consume Law Group said every car MUST pass emissions.

He also said that state law requires dealerships to allow an independent mechanic to perform an inspection upon request.

It can be on the premises or at their mechanic shop. He said if the dealership refuses to allow the consumer to take the car off the lot to have the inspection, that’s a pretty good sign that maybe this is a dealership that you don’t want to do business with.

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