Wheelin’ & Dealin’: Investigating Used Cars & Extended Warranties

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Between the 2,000 Connecticut used car dealerships, buying the right car can be a huge decision. Buying the wrong one can be a huge headache.So, how do you know you’re buying the right car for you? And how do you protect yourself from repair headaches down the road?

Take the case of Elisa Franco. She bought a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee from “A Better Way Auto” in Naugatuck. It was used, but in her price range. She spent an extra $2,000 on the extended warranty. It would be just a few weeks before she said she needed it.

“Two weeks after we had to bring it back,” said Franco. “It kept stalling, the check engine light kept coming on.”

Mechanics at A Better Way looked at it. They fixed what they found wrong for free, but Franco ran into even more problems.

Another mechanic called the car unsafe. They found problems with the rear differential. Fixing everything that was wrong would nearly total the car. She applied for that extended warranty to fix it, but All State denied the claim, saying it was another small fluid leak that caused the problem, damaging the car.

The News8 Investigators contacted Dr. Walt’s Auto Specialist in Branford to inspect the car. Mechanics there found rust spots consistent with salt water.

“You’re going to have between three and four thousand dollars and it’s not going to stop. Somehow this got through salvage.”

“We’re in this situation where we have this vehicle that we can’t drive we’re paying for monthly and there’s nothing you can do,” said Franco. “You feel helpless.”

The cars history shows that it was in three different states before it was purchased by A Better Way at a Massachusetts auction. There is no record of accidents or being damaged in a flood.

“We stand behind it. That’s all that we can do. I don’t have a crystal ball to know if the car you’re buying is going to be need service in years or days,” said A Better Way owner Joe Gorbecki.

It turns out Franco is far from alone in her frustration with some dealerships and third party extended warranties.

“A little bit of research can go a long way in giving you peace of mind and protecting your money.”

Howard Schwartz says one of the most common complaints they get at the Better Business Bureau are about used car dealerships. A lot of those complaints deal with extended warranties.

Since 2006, the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles has taken more than 11,000 complaints about used car dealerships.

“You don’t know what you’re getting into when you buy a used car,” said Gorbecki. He claims he sells more used cars than anyone in the state: More than 400 every month.

A Better Way has also gotten the attention of Consumer attorney Daniel Blinn with the Consumer Law Group.

“It is certainly one of the more frequent subjects of customer complaints,” said Blinn. He has filed a number of suits against A Better Way for different issues, including warranty issues. Blinn says consumers have options.

“When a dealership is unable to repair a defect, after a reasonable amount of time, often the consumer has the right to make the dealer buy the car back,” said Blinn.

News8 contacted All State Insurance about Franco’s case. Our calls were not returned. Franco says shortly after our call, however, she was contacted by an agent and they reversed their denial and agreed to fix the majority of the damage, paying the cost her extended warranty agreement.

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