The Ten Worst Used Car Buying Experiences Ever

If you love cars as much as we do here at Jalopnik these ten stories are the stuff of nightmares.


10.) Buy Local

The Ten Worst Used Car Buying Experiences Ever

Reader ntl0505 learned the hard way that your best bet is to buy local.

"Used 2008 Saab 9-7X Aero (basically Trailblazer SS in Saab guise).

Autos Direct Online, through eBay. 5 hours away from me.

I made them a sort of lowball offer because in 2011, when gas prices went cray, the 400hp SUV market wasn't very hot. But they accepted the offer. I asked to get pictures of the vehicle and they forwarded me high-res photos that were taken from their eBay auction. All looked great.

I also asked if there was any reason I would be unhappy when I arrived, and he said "no, this is a clean truck, there's no reason why you wouldn't want to buy this truck." I was also told there were no defects, etc. And of course, I had to put down $500 on it through PayPal.

Riding on the high of good photos, a good deal, reassurance from the salesman, and several gleaming eBay feedback and online reviews, I had no reason not to get the check cut from the bank and head down there.

6 hours, rain, i75 traffic, and a couple traffic jams later we're there, check in hand. We pull into the dealer, and next to a Saab 9-7X Aero. Surely, this dirty, beat down, side-swiped, rim scraped, 1 tire with low pressure PIECE OF SHIT is not the vehicle we came to look at. OF COURSE ITS NOT.

OF COURSE IT IS! Me and the couple friends I brought jumped out of the car and started looking over the vehicle. Dents, scrapes, side-swiped passenger side, not cleaned (despite them making me come a few hours later than I had planned because they had to "detail it."), and just generally beat 9-7X Aero is the vehicle that I had a check for.

My heart sank.

I opened the door anyways.

FKING INTERIOR DOOR PANELS WERE FALLING OFF! WTF M8. Heater vents were misaligned and installed incorrectly. The kick panels were all flajoled, the dash SEEMED LOOSE (?!?), and the carpet wasn't laying correctly.

What in the hell happened to this poor thing?

So I quickly walked into the sales dept and found the salesman. Juan Rosario. I said "dude, the 9-7X is beat." He knew exactly who I was. He knew I was furious. He knew I couldn't really do anything about it. I said "I have the check right here, why did you waste my time?" I was pleading with him, for something, for anything. I just ended with "I'm out of here, man." He just said "Ok" and cracked an asshole smile. Fuck that guy.

So, we left. I was so furious I had forgotten about the deposit through PayPal until a few miles from home. I certainly wasn't going to go back there, and they were closed, so I fired off an email to them about it.

I pleaded and described the situation. I promised no bad feedback if they just gave me the $ back timely.

3 weeks, and 1 PayPal dispute later, I had the $500 back."

Suggested By: ntl0505, Photo Credit: Getty Images


9.) So Close, Yet So Far

The Ten Worst Used Car Buying Experiences Ever

This is probably impossible for a gearhead, but try not to fall in love with your purchase until it's home and you know it works. Just ask Desu-San-Desu.

"I was 20 and I was in the warm embraces of young love, like only a strapping young man in the springtime of his life can be. Ok, not really. I getting ready to buy my second car, after my first car, a 1988 Toyota Corolla DLX, blew its motor three months after I bought it off a nearby front lawn. One day soon thereafter, I saw the shop up the road from me selling a pristine 1995 Honda Prelude in that weird silver/tan/champagne color that looks so good at dusk. The interior and exterior was immaculate. It had service records from the previous owner. It only had 130,000 miles and had been traded in for a Camry they'd recently bought at auction.

It had a clutch pedal.

More importantly, it had dat dash! You know the one I'm talking about- the one with the digital instrument cluster that stretches across the entire width of the car and when you turned on the car, it had the sort of left-to-right light-up procedure that automatically caused the 'Star Trek' theme to play in your head. When I saw the car itself, I loved it.

When I saw the car crank up and that instrument cluster come to life, I was ready to stalk it at night and whisper lake-front wedding plans in its ear as it slept. "We'll even have hibachi chefs for catering", I'd whisper, stroking the wing mirror with my thumb ever so lightly.

Oddly enough, I didn't really care about the 6-disc CD changer and aftermarket stereo. I was a pretty weird 20-year old. I haven't changed much in the years since.

The test drive went beautifully. The car sounded smooth, the throttle was responsive, the handling sublime and the ride was akin to that of a well-fluffed cloud atop a Tempurpedic mattress- at least compared to the Corolla and my dad's worn-out '95 Chevy S10. Upon getting back, I called my dad and he drove it as well. His consensus was, for once, in line with mine: worth every cent of $1,800. We told the shop's owner that we'd be back the next day with the Corolla and $1,500. He promised he'd have the Prelude prepped and ready to go.

[The following day. High noon. Dust blows in the wind, interspersed with plastic 'Stop-A-Minute' tumbleweeds. The rattling of spurs tow chains can be heard approaching.]

We arrived, with the Corolla being towed behind the S10 with the old 'pole and chain' trick. Handshakes, salutations, and congratulations were afoot. The shop owner inspected the Corolla, clean and tidy save for the engine, and agreed it was worth the $300 deficit in cash price. I showed him my half of the cash (over-proudly), my father showed him his half (begrudgingly), and the owner, like a professional poker player showing a straight flush high, presented the title and bill of sale.

The pen was millimeters from the paper when the tech in the bay put away his chamois and cranked the Prelude up to be pulled forward. We all raised our eyes and watched as the car, seemingly in slow motion, began to approach. Graceful and lean as a cheetah, the engine rumbling low, interspersed with the occasional deafening bang and thud.

Wait, what?

Yep. 10 foot away from me, cash in hand, the Prelude of my 20 year old lustful dreams threw a rod. The shop owner looked horrified and confused. My father looked angry and suspicious. I looked like I'd just been forced to watch a corgi puppy genocide with 'Angel' by Sarah McLachlan being piped directly into my cerebellum.

The tears still taste just as salty in my memory as they did that day."

Suggested By: Desu-San-Desu, Photo Credit: Honda


8.) Beware The Dreaded 'Buy Here Pay Here'

The Ten Worst Used Car Buying Experiences Ever

Mailbox Cancer bought a truck from a "Buy Here Pay Here" dealer. It will certainly be the last time he'll buy there and pay there.

"- Pay cash for a cheap old pickup for a basic high school ride from a BY/PH dealer.

- Take home with title, began registering with state registrar's office.

- Get a letter notice saying vehicle VIN does not match consistent records, and thus cannot be registered.

- Go back to dealer. Lot empty. No tenant in space. Phone disconnected.

- Fake title upon further investigation.

- Vehicle is impounded by police department as part of a theft and cocaine ring investigation that led to my vehicle.

- Take school bus for a semester, minus an effectively stolen $1200.

- Fuck."

Suggested By: Mailbox Cancer, Photo Credit: Don Graham


7.) SVO? More Like SV-No!

The Ten Worst Used Car Buying Experiences Ever

GV_Goat had a Mustang SVO he bought pull a Ferrari on the side of a highway after buying. Shame that it happened to such a cool car, but this story thankfully has a happy ending.

"2004, my wife is due any day with our first child. I decide to sell my immaculate, low mileage 2001 Mustang Bullitt, because, you know, kids. Thought I'd find something I could pay cash for and eliminate a monthly payment.

And I did find something. After a couple months of off and on looking I found an absolutely as good as it gets 1986 Mustang SVO. All original. It had a recent repaint, done very well, perfect interior, immaculate engine bay, with a rebuilt and modestly improved 2.3L turbo four. Only problem was, the car was in Houston and I was in the Ft. Worth suburbs. Since my wife was pregnant, I couldn't leave town to get the car so enlisted the help of one of my friend's sons. Mature kid, trusted him completely. So, I arranged everything with the seller, flew the kid down to Houston, he called me and said, "the car is awesome, man, flawless, drives perfect. I already knew he would say that because the seller was a meticulous, enthusiast type and I has already seen every receipt, every service record and over a hundred pics from every conceivable angle. This just confirmed what I already knew, so I gave him the green light, the purchased occurred and the kid began the 4ish hour drive back to my neck of the woods.

Well, for those of you that know Texas, you know that Hurstville isn't that far from Houston... and that's as far as the kid made it. His father, my friend, called me to say the car burned to the ground on the side of the highway. My heart sank, at first I thought it was a cruel joke but he was serious and I went from the sweet joy of anticipating a new car to being absolutely crushed. He said everything was going perfect, the car was driving great, started to smoke, then smoke significantly, so he pulled to the side. Then it burnt to the ground.

I called the seller to tell him what happened and he drove to pick up the kid and took him to the airport. The car was, of course, a total loss.

At this point, I'm thinking, OK, I'm about to get screwed out of $9K but the seller was a standup guy and took responsibility for the fire, saying something was obviously not right on the car. He claimed it on his insurance and refunded my money. I was out the cost of two plane tickets but I had my money back so I could start the search anew.

I still lament the loss of that car and like to think I'd still have it today."

Suggested By: GV_Goat, Photo Credit: Ford


6.) Haunted Honda

The Ten Worst Used Car Buying Experiences Ever

Everyone has bought a lemon at some point or another, but Chairman Kaga bought a haunted one.

"After I totaled my Integra GSR in 2001, I had to buy something outright because I couldn't get affordable full coverage insurance. I had $2,500 from the insurance settlement (which was total BS). My mechanic, who I had a solid multi-year relationship with, had an '89 Prelude SI that he vouched for, and for $500 less than I had on hand.

Deal.

The first week I had the car, the AC died. Bear in mind, this is May in Arkansas. Not blazing hot (yet), but wicked humid.

Within a month, the radiator had puked up its guts.

Within two months, the driver's side window stopped rolling down and the electric locks stopped working.

Within three months, the engine had dropped a cylinder due to poorly timing.

My friends called it the Quaalude, because it was such a downer to drive.

When I finally got around to doing some research on the car, and remember this is in the EARLY days of CarFax so most of this was the result of living in a small town and people knowing people, I discovered it had been in a horrible accident in which the previous owner had been killed. The reason it was so troublesome was not only because it had been in a catastrophic accident and cobbled back together by the owner's uncle then sold off, but it was fucking HAUNTED.

I traded it in on a 2002 Focus SVT. On the way to the dealership, which was a 2 hour drive away, the front right suspension collapsed. I still got $1,500 toward the Focus and never trusted that mechanic again."

Suggested By: Chairman Kaga, Photo Credit: Honda


5.) That's No Eagle

The Ten Worst Used Car Buying Experiences Ever

Reader ToastedTires bought a 1990 Eagle Talon, and the dealer gave it some interesting modifications.

"18. Needed a car. My dad decided I should get a 1990 Eagle Talon, automatic. Three days later, timing belt snapped, engine grenaded itself. Dealer put a new engine in. It said Hyundai on the valve cover. Them the transmission ripped itself off the engine block. Then a tree fell on it. Sold it."

Suggested By: ToastedTires, Photo Credit: Eagle


4.) All Over A Broken Stereo

The Ten Worst Used Car Buying Experiences Ever

The stereo was broken in thisisamazonman's just purchased S10, so it was brought to the dealer to be fixed. That's when things went a little awry.

"First car was a 1999 S10 extended cab with the ZR2 package. It looked good, drove well, and while the stereo did not work the dealer said they would fix it (small used lot with a garage in the back). We plunked down $6k on it and for the first day, we were happy.

Then, it became apparent they did not fix the stereo. No biggie! We drove on back, pointed to where in our paperwork they said they would fix the stereo, and then moved on. The next day we get a call saying that we owed them $120 for the stereo. My dad got involved, and after much yelling and threatening legal action (funnest part of that: it was the DEALER who threatened US with legal action first), the dealer acquiesced and we went to pick up the fixed truck.

Only, when we get it back (after literally having the keys thrown at us by dealership owner), we noticed something wrong with the tires. He had taken off the newish tires (they had like 85% tread left) and put on four ancient tires, AND stolen the spare! We immediately get back out of the truck and go back inside, only for the dealer owner to tell us "this is private property and if you do not leave I will have your cars towed and you will be arrested."

Only, the county sheriff lived three houses down from my parents. They grilled together on the 4th of July for Christs sake.

So this guy actually calls for a tow, and calls the cops. We call the sheriff to let them know what is going on. The sheriff comes up, says 'hey Dave' to my dad (not his real name), and proceeds to ask the owner what in the blue hell is going on. While the owner heaves and haws about trespassing and how we swindled him, we tell him about the stereo, show him the paperwork, and show him that our tires are basically shot and yet here we have pictures from the ad showing 4 new tires.

The sheriff walks back to the service area with the owner, and comes back to us. There is a window viewing the service bay from inside: he could see our nearly new tires and the spare just sitting right there in back. The guy did not even try to hide them. To sum up, we leave with the four new tires in the bed, and the owner leaves in cuffs for theft. We sued later and won civil damages.

All of that for a broken stereo."

Suggested By: thisisamazonman, Photo Credit: Order_242


3.) That's Not Supposed To Be There

The Ten Worst Used Car Buying Experiences Ever

When inspecting a 2005 Neon for sale 275 BHP (Brake Hamster Power) found something that probably wasn't on the car when it left the factory.

"I went car shopping with a friend on a budget a few years ago and we ended up at a series of dealerships on the south side of Chicago. After dark (in winter, so like 5pm). At the first lot, the lights were on, but there were no employees anywhere. There were other car shoppers, but no dealers. We eventually saw someone we thought was an employee, but he ran away, right across Western Avenue. At the next dealership, the Hyundai we wanted to see wouldn't start - the dealer insisted that using jumper cables was completely normal, and the car was in perfect condition. The second car we wanted to see was at a remote lot a block away, but the dealer insisted he drive us - to a barely-lit lot with razor wire fencing. The 2005 Neon SXT looked in great shape, started and ran smoothly, until I walked to the passenger side and noticed an odd looking hole in the B-pillar. It was getting late and the lot wasn't well lit, but I was pretty sure there wasn't supposed to be a hole through the front passenger window frame. It's been a few years, but the conversation went something like:

Me: Is this a bullet hole?

Friend: (awkward laugh)

Dealer walks around, inspects hole, sticks finger in, wiggles it around.

Dealer: Yeah, that's a bullet hole.

Friend walks around to look, but does not stick finger in hole.

Me: The passenger glass looks like it's been replaced. And the passenger seat looks really clean...

Dealer: The price of the car is with the bullet hole included.

Friend: I don't think I'm buying this car; let's head back to the dealership."

Suggested By: 275 BHP (Brake Hamster Power), Photo Credit: Star5112


2.) That Escalated Quickly

The Ten Worst Used Car Buying Experiences Ever

Jeremiah R. had a little bit of trouble dealing with the dealer he bought his Sentra SE-R from. Unfortunately for the dealer, they ran into some trouble as well.

"I once purchased a beautiful, supposedly like new, B13 Sentra SE-R; "only 42k miles", perfect interior, "no mechanical issues", etc.. Well, the first week was fantastic, then I noticed the oil leak(s), there were two of them, one from the valve cover (no big deal) and the other from the rear seal (very big deal). So I took it in to let Nissan take a look at it, because it was still under warranty, right (it supposedly had a 5/50k warranty).

Well, after close inspection, the odometer had been tampered with and they speculated it had been rolled back at least 20k miles, if not more. The place I'd bought it from had also used various stop-leak additives, like motor honey, and steam cleaned the hell out of the engine bay, to cover up that the car leaked oil like a sieve (also the clutch was on its last legs).

Naturally, I was pissed, so I took the papers from the service dept to the lot I'd bought the car from, showing their conclusions, and was told, "tough luck, we had nothing to do with that". Undaunted, I asked to see the owner, who also told me, "too bad, kid" and after I didn't back down he said, "if you don't fuck off I'll drag you out back and beat the shit out of you".

Unfortunately for him, my best friend's father was the county sheriff, and he was like a second dad to me, so he took it very personally that I'd been threatened and cheated. So he took my paperwork, I made an official statement, and he then; issued a warrant, arrested the lot owner, threw him in the clink, and shut the place down. A few days later I got a full refund, in exchange for dropping the assault charge, but the lot was investigated for other shady deals, it turns out there had been a bunch, and it eventually went out of business and several people there were fined and jailed, for a laundry list of fraud related crimes."

Suggested By: Jeremiah R., Photo Credit: Chris Yarzab


1.) 'Instant Karma's Gonna Get You'

The Ten Worst Used Car Buying Experiences Ever

Reader Crest had one of the scariest experiences buying a car I've ever heard. Thankfully, karma was swift and oh so sweet.

"Well i went to see a new car i was going to buy and didn't bring anybody with me. I found myself in a very shady neighborhood and i should have taken it as a sign. Long story short, i was robbed by the guy who's car i was supposed to buy and his friends. I mean they had guns. Then the funniest thing happened, after robbing me, they jumped into the car and sped off only to fly into an intersection and hit a cop car. It was the happiest day of my life."

Suggested By: Crest, Photo Credit: Don Hankins

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