7 On Your Side: Lesson for car brokers and buyers

Seven On Your Side
July 11, 2011 2:35:37 PM PDT
It had high miles and was 14 years old, but a New Jersey mom needed to put her college-bound son into something to get back and forth to school.

They found on a car they could afford on Craigslist and thought they were buying it from a private person. But when the paperwork listed an unlicensed dealer as the seller and the car broke down they went to 7 On Your Side for help.

This was an expensive lesson learned for a single mom saving to put two sons through college. She didn't look up the blue book value, didn't get a Carfax or a mechanic, paid in cash, and now has nothing to drive.

Smoke was pouring out of the top and bottom of the car and it just kept pouring out until he couldn't see," Elaine said.

7 weeks after finding the Explorer for sale on Craigslist her son Joe's first set of wheels, bought to commute to college, died on the highway.

"He could've got killed, he could've killed somebody, there could been an accident," Elaine said.

Two mechanics verify the transmission on the 97' Ford is shot, but the mother and son say the guy who sold it to them for 2900 dollars and assured them that it had been fixed.

But she's got a big time problem now. Joe has no way to get to college in the fall and the single mom is out of money.

Elaine called 7 On Your Side for help when she noticed the bill of sale she received after the transmission blew listed a dealership "NJ Autobrokers" as the seller instead of the guy Mike Burke on Craigslist.

Yet there's a website listing cars. It's illegal to sell or market cars as a dealership if you're not licensed by the state, so 7 On Your Side went in undercover to ask the seller some questions.

Mike Burke didn't pretend to be a dealer when we asked him undercover about a Fiat listed on his website. He told the team that the sale would be private because his dealership license is pending and admitted he should not have listed NJ Autobrokers as the seller.

The DMV agreed, that the transaction was a person to person sale-leaving buyers on their own to do some homework.

Under no obligation to help Elaine out, the seller agreed to buy the car back, ponying up $1,500 in cash.

She's still out a car, but has a down payment toward something with a warranty.

"I'm more aware you really have to check the person out and the car out demand a car fax demand any kind of paperwork any service report warranty and if they refuse to have it run the other way," Elaine said.

Even if this was sold by a dealer, cars that old with that many miles are sold as is. If a licensed dealer lies about something and that's in writing, the consumer has some recourse through DMV and Consumer Affairs.