10 Real-Life Horror Stories of Buying a Used Car

It’s tough being a used car salesperson. Many people think that if a car is for sale on a used car lot, something must be wrong with it. That’s not the case, of course; most used car dealers are honest and helpful (you can use services like DealerRater to get dealer ratings).

But as long as they are used cars, there will be horror stories. Here are a few of the craziest real-life stories, taken from actual customers:

1. The Blazin’ Blazer

“I purchased a 1999 Blazer with 29,242 miles. Yes, that’s what it showed and the Dallas car dealership told us. The CARFAX report came up clean, too!“Needless to say, I never got it home the day it was purchased. It overheated, redlined, and the water pump went out. I called the dealer, and they came and towed it in to be fixed. Well, that was all well and good. But, I now wanted my money back. They had a three-day, no-questions-asked money back guarantee.“When I got the Blazer back on the second day of this 3-day policy, I had emailed my salesman with my concerns. He and his General Manager wouldn’t take it back.”

2. It’s Not a Minivan, It’s a “Tinny Van”

“My husband and I went to a used car dealer in Stayner, Ontario and bought a 1999 minivan. When we were first looking at it, I asked the dealer if the van had air conditioning and he said “Yes.” I then asked if it worked. He confirmed it worked, but said it needed topping off, but that he had the stuff there and would have it done.“He said that the ABS (anti-lock brakes) light was on, and that he would make sure it was fixed. I agreed to buy the vehicle, and signed the papers. He said he would have everything done and ready to pick up on Saturday. On Saturday, we picked the van up, only to find that the air didn’t work, the ABS light was still on, and a wiper on the back that he said he would replace was not put on.”

3. It’s Called a Grand Am, Not a TWELVE-Grand AM

“They sold me a 1992 Pontiac Grand AM with 80,000 miles on it for $8,000 (and yes, I mean U.S. dollars). And that’s not all — with the ‘low’ interest rate of 29%, everything added up to more than $12,000!“Two days after the deal of a lifetime, the engine started having problems; they took the car and made repairs. A month later, the brakes were working like a fast food employee after five hours of overtime, so they took the car again and made repairs. It’s been constant repairs ever since.”

4. The Shakin’ Suburban

“As we drove the car off the lot, the power locks stopped working, so we turned around and took it to service. Unfortunately, it was during a holiday weekend and we had to leave it for four days. After leaving the Suburban with the service department, we went over to Enterprise Rent-A-Car where we stayed for two hours until they could find a car to accommodate us.“The very next week, the car began shaking violently on the road, so I took the car in to have it fixed. Bruce was a nice mechanic, who kept the car for a week and told me it was fixed. But as I drove home on the freeway, it was still shaking.”

5. Handle With Care

“I purchased my used vehicle from ********* Toyota in New Jersey. The next day, I contacted my salesperson about the driver’s side door handle being broken. He told me he would have it fixed. When I brought the vehicle to be fixed, I was told that *I* broke it, and it would cost me $600 to have it fixed, because it is not covered under warranty. So now my passengers either ride in the back seat, or get out through the driver’s side door.”

6. Maybe
He Meant “Minty-Fresh”

“I bought my car back in April from a used car dealership in southern New Hampshire. Everything seemed great, because he said the car was in MINT condition … and to prove it, he would pay for the inspections. However, he insisted we get the car inspected at a garage of his choice. I’m thinking, okay, at least I don’t have to pay for inspection. So the garage passes my inspection, and I start driving home in my first car ever. I’m excited, but then I realize that my car isn’t accelerating. I shrug it off in hopes that the problem will go away.“Finally, four months later, I get sick of the problem which seems to be getting worse, and take it to a different garage that I know and trust. They hook it up to the diagnostics computer and tell me I need a new transmission and engine.”

7. Vehicle Immobilizer Switcharoo

“A Nissan dealer in Helena, MT sold me a 2006 Xterra a week ago that I absolutely love. One of the great features of this Nissan is the Vehicle Immobilizer, which means that your keys have programmed chips in them that allow you to start the vehicle. If the chip isn’t programmed for your vehicle, the car doesn’t start, even if it can be turned in the door and the ignition. Brilliant. Thieves hate them, but the insurance companies love this technology.“Now I know that the car salesmen love it, too. Big Dan sold me the Xterra, gave me the keys and watched me drive away with the good key. Guess what? The other key wasn’t programmed, and the only place to get it programmed in town was at his service department. When I called back, he laughed and admitted that he knew the key wouldn’t start when he gave it to me, then refused to have it programmed for me.”

8. Volvo: Not Always a Safe Bet

“My wife got a Volvo CX90 from a dealer in Raleigh NC. These people are crooks. Within the first week of our purchase, the turbo went out on the Volvo engine, and it took them a month before they agreed to fix it. Then they pretty much told us that they screwed us, and wished us a nice life. I wish for their demise. The car has now completely broken down, and the engine is shot.”

9. This Golf is About to Fall Apart

“Bought a used VW Golf TDi from a so-called VW TDi ‘Specialist.’ It was ‘fully inspected’ before it was sold and had a one-year ‘warranty.’ Yeah. Within three weeks, it blew the Turbo out, had a glow plug harness go bad, bad horn, transmission problem, bad brakes, a rebuilt head, wrong vacuum lines, wrong (non-diesel) coolant, non-functional headlights that were flopping around loose, no turbo heat shield, a clutch fixed with hair spray (it works … temporarily), an undisclosed accident, and a bad rear shock and bushings.”

10. Did They Say “Inspected,” or “Unexpected”?

“I bought my daughter her first car from ****** Acura in Virginia: a used 2005 Neon that had passed state inspection. Eventually we found out the true state of the car: three tires bad, one rim damaged, control arm bushing worn out, motor mount broken, power steering leaking, and broken wheel stud. Only one question: How did this ever pass inspection!? 

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