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Real Drivers Share Stories Of Getting Ripped Off By Car Dealers

Cameron EittreimApril 13, 2021

Sleazy car salesman used to be a dime a dozen. With the automotive industry increasing the pressure on salesmen, online car sales are becoming more of a commonality. There are horror stories of being ripped off by car dealerships that have been around since the dawn of the automotive industry itself.

Salesmen are naturally pressured to make a “sale” at any cost, and a lot of times this involves cutting corners. Most car dealerships are also notoriously well-known for selling “lemons” to consumers. Read on to check out some real-life stories drivers told of being ripped off by their local dealerships.

Photo Credit: Car Advisor

20: 300ZX Turbo

The 300ZX is perhaps one of the most iconic sports cars ever made. Nowadays, the 300ZX is fine as a used car. But Reddit user Elemental83 described a not-so-great deal. “I got a 300zx Turbo (with the pop-up headlights) for $500, then had it towed away before I took possession. At one point he was outside doing something with the wiring harness when I got home from work, so I grabbed a beer and went over to shoot the shit. He starts telling me how he has to get it running because they’re going to have to move.

Photo Credit: Car Advisor

“Tells me he’s gotta sell the 300zx to pay for the deposit on the new place. Of course, being a Nissan fanboy at the time, I ask how much. Before he could finish saying $500 I was sprinting inside to get the cash. We even went on double dates with him and his girlfriend. So the day after I purchased a 300zx Turbo for $500 I turn down my street after work and see crap spread all over the front yard. After sliding into the drive and inspecting the debris now littering the whole front of the duplex I realize it’s not my crap, it’s my neighbors. Then I realize his car is gone, and my 300zx is gone.”

Photo Credit: Car Advisor

19: 2007 Nissan Altima SE-R

Nissan’s Sentra has long been an underrated value in the compact car segment. Redditor petekill thought he got the deal of a lifetime. “I got hosed on my first car purchase; I was 23 years old, good job, a little cash in my pocket, so I decided to sell my ailing Saab 9-3 that had taken me through high school and college. Found what looked like a good car at a buy-here-pay-here lot (first red flag), a 2007 Nissan Altima SE-R with about 55k miles on it, and a body that looked in great condition. I had it inspected by the Nissan dealer down the street, though the saleswoman offered to take it over there for me (second red flag).

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“Over the next 6 months, the car developed a disturbing rattle from the engine. Turns out the timing chain guides had worn down and the timing chains were rattling and banging around. $1200 for new timing chains and guides. A few months later, the oil pressure sender went out, causing me to freak out and park the car thinking the oil pressure had dropped to 0. $350 to replace (about 10x the cost of the part on a regular Altima due to the fancy dash gauges). A few months after that, the clutch master cylinder crapped out while I was in the middle of nowhere” This car turned out to be a very painful investment in what should have been a solid used vehicle.

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18: ‘94 Audi A4 1.8T Quattro

Audis can be great cars when maintained by the previous owner. Unfortunately, without proper maintenance, they can be a nightmare to own. Ecklesiastik detailed his experience with an A4 1.8T. “Several years ago I found a ‘94 Audi A4 1,8t Quattro with three pedals and a clean body. The price was a bit high at 4k but as clean as it looked and as good as it ran I thought it was worth the splurge and bought it. A couple of weeks later the backrests for the rear seats fell forward during braking. So I started to look and saw that the hoops in the rear bulkhead for the rear seat latch were missing.

Photo Credit: Copart

“I went to my local Audi dealership and bought brand new ones only to find they fit the bulkhead but not the seats. So I went back to Audi expecting them to have given me the wrong hoops. The rear seat itself loosened and gave me the scare of my life as I noticed that someone had replaced the rear seats and went from a lap belt for the middle seat to one with a shoulder strap and lap belt for the middle seat and they had not fastened the new belt latch and just tucked the old one in between the seats so if you sat on the right side or in the middle seat you had latched into a latch that was just stuck down between the seats.”

Photo Credit: Copart

17: 2010 Ford Focus

Now the most popular way to buy a used car is to buy a previous rental car, but Reddit user LTT detailed why that might be a bad idea. “$2800 down and $250 a month for 60 months on a 2010 Focus (or Fusion, can’t remember he was on the other side of the country and didn’t have it very long). Regardless it was too much for a 40k mile rental even if it had a “bumper to bumper, $0 deductible warranty” from the rental company. The transmission died at 55k. They replace it with a brand new Ford unit because it was still under the factory powertrain.

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“Then the radiator cracked at 62k and the engine seized. He was on the way to get the thermostat looked at because it read 0 so he had no idea it was overheating until it was too late. They denied that claim because they considered it user abuse for driving it while it was overheating. So basically he paid more than he would have at a regular dealer for a car with 6k on the clock, he then had 50-something months left to go on his loan even though his car needed $6k worth of repairs” Ouch, not a deal anymore.

Photo Credit: Copart

16: Audi A4 with a 1.9 TDI

Sounds like these horror stories with Audis just don’t stop. Reddit user Rustholes-Are-Weight-Reduction detailed his Audi experience. “I once bought a 9-year-old 67.000km Audi A4 with a 1.9 TDI for 9000€, it was a good price, or so I thought… It was a one-owner car, the previous owner being a retiree. It went from doing around 7000km/year to 40,000km/year when I got it, this may be what caused what follows. After about 2 months, the engine started shaking wildly, we pulled the car home and checked the usual issues this engine can have.

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“We pulled out the injectors to have them tested: 2 were bad, 2 were on the limit, okay, found the culprit! Had the injectors rebuilt by Bosch service, and reinstalled them. 1650€. Engine still shaking. I removed the camshaft to check the hydraulic lifters. I could push the lifters together with 2 fingers, not good. Found the culprit! Got a set of lifters from a local “Audi specialist”. Installed everything. 90€ with new hardware.” Talk about a car being a money pit.

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15: 2002 Nissan Xterra SE/SC

Xterras have exploded in value lately as more buyers seek out classic body-on-frame SUV models as opposed to crossovers. Reddit user CodyVella thought that he had hit the jackpot with this 2002 model. “My last DD, 2002 Nissan Xterra SE/SC. Bought it off a guy who didn’t disclose that it was on a salvage title. I never thought to ask because that’s usually something that you mention in the ad.

Photo Credit: Copart

“Went to get insurance on it so I could get a temp sticker to have it certified and e-tested and my insurance agent informed me that it was on a salvage title. Slapped a set of tires on it and it breezed through a safety inspection. Went to get it e-tested and nope. Tech informed me that the check engine light wasn’t working, but it had dozens of codes. Turns out it needed a new TPS, and it had a slew of codes related to the EVAP system. I replaced damn near every single goddamn component in that EVAP system to the tune of close to a grand (parts only, did all the work myself) just so I could get it past an e-test.”

Photo Credit: Copart

14: 1993 Nissan 240SX Convertible

The 240SX was one of the last to bear a Nissan badge. Umoja was pretty juiced with what he thought was a good deal. “It looked great in the pics on eBay. And I already had a fully disassembled coupe with a built turbo motor, so I just needed a car to cruise in. Placed my bid, won the car and made plans for pickup. Here is where the ripoff began.

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“Took it for a test drive and wrote off the severe vibration as “bad tire”. Paid my $3,000 cash to the seller. Listened to him swear up a storm about his son being in jail and selling the car as punishment. 8.5 hours home with the car violently shaking between 40 and 75mph. No radio. No A/C. The rearview mirror fell off 5 minutes into the trip. My girlfriend and I got a severe sunburn. The aftermarket security system went off if a fly farted in the neighboring county. Finally made it home and when it was on the lift for new tires, they found evidence of a severe front end collision that was never reported.”

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13: 2002 Civic Si

Getting an auto loan for the first time can be an exhilarating yet stressful experience, and predatory dealerships are all too quick to wrap you up. Reddit user Kaiser Khan talked about his first time financing a car. “My first car loan. It was for a 2002 Civic Si (possibly the first one sold in my area) and instead of trying to negotiate the price of the car down, I wanted to keep the payments as low as possible. They stretched the loan out to 72 months, so I’m pretty sure that I spent like $30k on that car in interest.

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“I was just stupid about the whole thing. Like the WHOLE thing: 1. Didn’t care about the total cost, just monthly payment 2. Bought a black car not realizing that it would look dirty all the time 3. Wanted to take the protective plastics off the car myself…it took forever and was remarkably hard to remove 4. Paid a premium for something new to the market, and learned that I would have paid less since these cars didn’t sell quickly 5. Couldn’t afford it, had to eventually borrow some money from a family member when I changed jobs 6. Didn’t bother to cross-shop or research other vehicles.”

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12: 1971 MGB GT

Perhaps the rarest car on this list is this 1971 MGB GT, a reasonably fun-to-drive roadster. Reddit user JamesRL detailed his not-so-fun example when he bought one and tried to drive it. “Next 95 miles were the most nerve-wracking I’ve had. The inside fogged up, the windshield was constantly coated in mist from trucks and I kept having to call my idiot friend and remind him that I’m following his taillights and he needs to stay in front of me. On the way home I stopped for gas and it wouldn’t restart, got it going eventually and we went on.

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“Then my friend called me to tell me my lights were flickering (because of Lucas). Once I got it home the car never ran right when hot, I discovered the carbs were severely corroded and the chokes were stuck on. The exhaust patched together. Oil pressure was 15psi at idle when hot. I also discovered the rear brakes weren’t working at all; I ended up swapping out the engine with a rebuilt one I got from a restored then wrecked MGB I got for parts.”

Photo Credit: Copart

11: 1997 Impreza Sport

There’s just something about an old Subaru that soothes the soul. These cars are a blast to drive. Reddit user bmw325_num99 had an unfortunate experience though. “I met the seller at a parking garage and he seemed like some older-hippy dude. Turns out he was somewhat of a dealer but not the Carmax type, the shady type with little or no physical business presence. I drive the car around the parking lot and checked on the rust…..the rockers were quite rusty. Still, I decided to look around the car more. I tested the A/C but I could not tell if it was blowing cold or not since it was February in Cleveland. Did the deal and regretted it is not too much time.

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“Driving home, I got a flat. On the interstate shoulder, I tried jacking it up but even the jack points were so rusty that when I jacked it up using the factory jack and jack points, the jack went right through the chassis rail and into the rear floor! To make matters worse, an Ohio State Trooper came by and asked why I had no plates. I said it was a Sunday and I just bought this car so I have not had a chance to get plates or a temp-tag. He gave me a warning but didn’t bother me further while I changed the wheel.”

Photo Credit: LA Times

10: Range Rover

When it comes to off-road capability, Range Rovers are some of the most world-renowned trucks that you can buy. However, maintenance is key, and Reddit user Teh Penguin of Doom had a bad experience.“There was the time I decided to take it for a climb. On a 100F day. Blazing sun. A/C blasting. Five people in the car. Going 15 MPH up a long, steep incline, all the way up a mountain. Stupidly, I hadn’t checked the coolant level in a while, and I didn’t have an auxiliary radiator like the forums recommend. In a particularly muddy spot, where we couldn’t even get out of the car, the dashboard didn’t suddenly go dark.

Photo Credit: LA Times

“Coolant wasn’t boiling like crazy, steam wasn’t violently pouring out the engine, and after a few minutes of not overheating, I didn’t crack the entire engine block. Then there was the time I left it parked at the airport after a two-week trip. You know how airport signal transmissions confuse the hell out of the Range Rover electronics and wear down its battery, right? I ordered an Uber before I even got to my Range Rover. I thought I’d just get some stuff out of it, verify that the battery was dead, then take the Uber home and later call a tow truck to take away the Range.”

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9: 2001 Honda Civic Coupe

The Honda Civic is one of the most popular compact cars on the market. The SI is a special-edition trim level that has been around for decades. Reddit user VagueVersusVogue detailed his experience when buying a Civic SI went sour. “Me, my dad, and my brother in law go to look at 2001 Civic Coupe, they take the car for a drive I stay behind with our car, the car looked really good even after checking everything,

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“Well just before my dad and brother-in-law get back a couple and their 3 young children pull up, the kids jump out and tell the guy selling the car “Hi Uncle Bob!” and all hug him. When my dad goes to negotiate the price, my dad threw out an offer for like $500 less than what the guy was asking, Bob tells my dad ‘Well these folks are gonna give me what I’m asking for it.’ My dad says “Have a nice day” and walks away. A month later my brother-in-law was still looking for a car and the same Civic was still listed for sale.”

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8: 2007 Infiniti G35

The troubles at Infiniti are well-documented and the brand just can’t seem to grasp the same amount of sales success as Lexus. CTJacob detailed his experience test driving an Infiniti. “I tested a 58k mile 2007 G35 in November. Call at 10 am before I left, the car was still there and available. Get there at noon (yes, 2-hour drive) and they tell me it’s sold unless I outbid the other seller. Car looked like it was thru a hail storm. No records. I turned that down quick but not before they tried to sell me a Lexus 250h instead.

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“Yeah sure, I’ll take the Prius with a Lexus badge when I was shopping for a 306hp sports sedan. I wanted to go home but my mom convinced me to go down the street and what do you know. Another 2007 G35X looks new besides one chip (which the dealer fixed for free) and has a complete service history at the same dealer back to 26 miles. Same price, 20k more miles but, that’s the car I ended up with. Love it so far. 2 months later and I’m STILL getting emails from the first dealer about how the price on the first car is going down and it’s still available.”

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7: 2008 Civic SI Sedan

The Honda Civic SI sedan introduced a lot of new features for the 2008 model year. Reddit user da_bomb3 was initially excited about buying one of these. “I was looking for a Civic si and I found a clean one that was entirely stock and owned by a 35-year-old man. I ran the Carfax and the car had been sold at auction twice but had a clean title so I went and took a look. Car was immaculate.

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“Little to no rust, 146k on the odometer (which I’m fine with), and as I said completely stock. I talked him down $600 because it needed some things here and there and I bought it. After some investigating later, I found out the short block replaced at 70k by Honda and the reason it was sold at auction was that it had a blown motor.”

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6: Mazda6 V6 Wagon

Mazda’s 6 sedan went on to become one of the company’s best-selling sedans. But Throwaway_Consoles talked about being badly ripped off while shopping for one. “2007 Mazda6 V6 wagon with a manual transmission. They put diesel fuel in the crankcase to hide the piston scoring during the test drive. Got the oil changed and it was like a bottle of glitter and the car started making a horrifying noise. Died a couple of weeks later. Paperwork I’d signed said I checked the car out and accepted it as is and I paid in cash so I’m out of luck.”

Photo Credit: Copart

Mazda’s 6 has naturally aspirated performance. Finding one with high mileage can be a risky proposition. If the car hasn’t been well maintained you can be in for a real-world of hurt. Still, finding a well-maintained Mazda6 can make for a very fun to drive the car that you’ll have for a very long time.

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5: 1993 Nissan Pulsar

Nissan’s lineup of the early 1990s was quite diverse with a lot of unique cars mixed into the fray. MeltingDog talked about a particularly bad example. “My friend knows nothing about cars. When he went to buy his first car ever his only criteria was ‘Japanese hatchback’‘. He went (alone) to a few dealers and came back with a 93 Nissan Pulsar. This was the worst car I’d ever seen. Drivers door card was missing rear seat belts were missing dash illumination didn’t work.

Photo Credit: Isuzu

“You couldn’t tell how fast you were going at night fuel tank leaked when parked on some angles one headlight was always on. You had to disconnect the battery after the parking Driver seat had collapsed and stuffed with old shirts none of the accessories worked starter motor broke a few days after he bought it. Dealership supplied him with a hammer to hit it with. Worst thing was he paid $1500 for this piece of sh**. That car was not in a roadworthy condition.”

Photo Credit: Car Domain

4: 2005 Honda S2000

Honda’s S2000 was a fun roadster that made its debut in 2000 to much fanfare. These cars have recently started to soar in value, and Reddit user tkthedk spoke his nightmare about trying to buy one. “I was in the market for an S2000 before the Doug DeMuro tax kicked into effect. I went into a used car dealership that had my dream yellow S2000 that’s been freshly detailed and the photos were professionally taken, so I figured why not go check it out?

Photo Credit: Car Domain

“I went about 2 hours out of town to check the car out and there was a small dent on the quarter panel, windshield was cracked all the way through and it was missing a rearview mirror along with some other things. I low-ball the dealership with a reasonable low-ball offer as the car does need a lot of work and they still wanted $17k out the door for it. They even told me that “normally, people don’t negotiate out the door prices for cars.”

Photo Credit: O’Reilly

3: Junk Replacement Parts

Parts departments of the auto dealerships are notorious for ripping customers off. Qucikquestionawe revealed what one dealership did with new parts. “Dealership parts department would put a bunch of boxes of the replacement parts that they’d install on the cars. Like the boxes that the shocks, brake pads, etc came in. When I opened the trunk sure enough all the empty boxes were in there.

Photo Credit: Pixlr

“Suggesting that they had replaced all of those components in the car. When I check those components, they were all old. The shock absorbers were old. Brake pads barely had any life in them. And so on. They probably had at least a hundred vehicles on their lot, and every single one had some boxes in the trunk or back seat. Most of them were probably never actually worked on.”

Photo Credit: Copart

2: 1997 Subaru Legacy GT

Subaru’s Legacy GT is the unsung hero of the Subaru community. It’s a sedan that offers great performance for the price. longlive289s talked about when his purchase went bad. “Bought a ’97 Leggy GT years ago in May with 150k. Clean car, no mods, bright red. However, it was a kinda weird part of Seattle and the car had some quirks. Removed badges (checked the VIN and still matched), one yellow fog light and one white, few other parts replaced

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“But were original OEM parts so seemed fine. Guy was getting rid of it for $5k with a rebuilt engine 10k miles ago, he had some leg issues so couldn’t drive a manual anymore. He originally was from Vegas and had the work done down there and had the car driven up to Seattle Told him to get me a copy of the rebuild invoice and notes and I’d buy it. His shop emailed my invoice and notes. So I bought it.”

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1: 1999 Volvo S70

Volvo’s S70 has always been an exceptionally well-appointed large sedan. But Reddit user siliconclassics talked about a bad experience. “A year ago I bought a 5-speed 1999 Volvo S70 from the stereotypical shady Craigslist seller – young-ish Russian used car sales dude selling it for someone else in Brooklyn, had it warmed up and ready both times I came to look at it. It had a clean history and complete service records from the original owner, and it seemed ok, so I bought it.

Photo Credit: Copart

“A few weeks later I’m driving it and notice the engine sounds louder than normal. Eventually, I get around to checking the oil and the dipstick is completely dry (the level was fine when I bought it). Turns out it burns a quart every 300 miles and by the time I discovered this it was 3 quarts low. But after topping up the oil it ran ok. Around the same time, I discovered that the clutch has a problem when cold – it doesn’t fully disengage, making it impossible to shift into gear from a standstill. The solution is to start the engine with the trans in gear and avoid stopping in neutral until it’s warmed up for 10 or 15 minutes.”

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