Mechanic Warns of Engine Light Scam on Used Cars as Pre-Owned Sales are On the Rise
Used car sales are on the rise—and so are scams.
You may or may not know this, but new vehicles are hard to come by. New inventory shortages can be attributed to a number of things, but the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent supply chain disruption are the main culprits. Back in 2020, COVID put a brick wall in front of our economy and as a result, automakers canceled orders for semiconductor chips.
Even though we've managed to crawl out of the worst of the pandemic, the residual impact of what I just described to you is still affecting new car dealers and probably will for some time to come.
As a result, used car sales are bigger than they've ever been in recent memory. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as many people prefer a great used vehicle over a brand new vehicle anyway. As a matter of fact, many pre-owned vehicles come with low miles, pristine cosmetic conditions, and sometimes even a remaining factory warranty.
Depending on the used vehicle, some people prefer to do pre-owned vehicles with very low miles over new ones just for the friendlier price tag.
But there are also nightmare stories that come with used car purchases and one woman in Georgia found out the hard way.
According to WGCL, Wanda King-Whitby found what she believed to be a great deal online while searching for a new car.
AP Auto Sales listed a 2006 Toyota Camry with just over 151,000 miles and when Wanda showed up to check it out she was assured that there "was nothing wrong with it."
He just told me that the vehicle was in good shape. It did not need any repairs, I did not need an emission and I shouldn’t have any problems with it.
She test drove the car and everything seemed fine—so she paid $4000 and took her new ride home.
And then things began to take a turn for the worse.
The transmission began to slip and it felt like the engine was hesitating. Whatever it was, Wanda knew that something wasn't right—so she took it to a mechanic at Theo's Automotive.
Most people don't opt for a pre-inspection, but after the mechanic at Theo's took a look at Wanda's Toyota Camry I know she probably wished she spent the $165 to get one before driving off the lot. A mechanic at Theo's found issues that "should have kept the car off the road" as well as evidence that the car had been repainted and the roof had been crushed.
Wanda was floored, but there were more issues that were even worse than that.
When the mechanic fired up her Camry he noticed something was missing. Normally, when you turn on your vehicle all of the lights on the instrument gauge light up before turning off. If any lights remain on, then you know you have an issue depending on what that light pertains to.
During the post-purchase inspection, the mechanic noticed that the check engine light didn't turn on when he cranked the vehicle. While the check engine light is a light that you don't necessarily want to see lighting up, in this case, he knew something was off.
The mechanic pulled out the instrument cluster, pulled back the covering, and realized that someone had intentionally placed a piece of black electrical tape over the bulb so that the warning light wouldn't shine.
He also found out that her mileage was inconsistent and instead of the 151,000 miles she thought she had on her Toyota Camry, the actual number of miles was closer to 248,000.
The way that this was able to be pulled off without anyone noticing was that the entire instrument cluster was replaced on the vehicle from another vehicle with lower miles, reducing the perceived mileage on the car by nearly 100,000.
This was intentional. They knew what they were doing.
When all was said and done, Wanda took her car back to AP Auto Sales to let them know what she had discovered.
They seemed to be as shocked as she was when she asked for an explanation. They put the blame on a previous seller, and whether or not they were telling the truth, the only thing that matters is they gave Wanda back her $4,000.
She's not looking to spend it quickly. Instead, she says she plans to take her time and make all necessary precautions, including a pre-purchase inspection.
There will always be scams to look out for when it comes to buying used cars (or pre-owned anything for that matter) and a quick YouTube search will easily get you up to speed from the most obvious tricks to some of the newer scams that sellers are trying to run by customers who aren't the wiser.
Be safe out there.