7 On Your Side: How to avoid trade-in troubles when you buy a car

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Nina Pineda reports has the big takeaway when paying off car financing early

Some car dealerships promise when that you buy a new car, they'll pay off your old financing deal. But what happens when the dealership never cuts the check?

Dealers will dangle putting you in a new car well before your financing deal is up, because they're anxious to keep customers. One loyal couple from New Jersey leased three cars from the same dealer, but the last deal went south when they got sent to collection for a car they turn over last summer.

As an EMT in Budd Lake for nearly 25 years, Vinny Acquisto is used to keeping calm during a 911 call. But recently, the husband, father, and grandfather of six found himself needing a financial rescue, stat.

"I need my money," he said, in regards to a missing check to pay off his old lease.

"It's in their contract that they signed," he said. "It states right on it that they were supposed to pay of the rest."

Last July, the Acquistos got a new Hyundai Tuscon, trading in their old lease on a Hyundai Sante Fe early. The dealer was supposed to pay off the remaining payments, more than $3,000.

"We got a letter from Hyundai saying they want their money, because it wasn't paid," he said.

In October, they got a letter from Hyundai looking for the balance.

"We were like, no, we're not paying it," Vinny's wife, Brenda Acquisto, said. "That money was rolled over. The dealer was supposed to take care of that payment."

When Brenda and Vinny went back to the dealership to find out what had happened, they learned that the dealership had been sold and no one there could help them. They were directed to the owner's new dealership, Newton Kia, and found their old salesman.

"He tried to find out what happened with the money," Vinny said.

With no success, Brenda and Vinny got sent to collections, and their credit took a huge hit.

Before Christmas, their old salesman wrote to the credit agencies explaining it was the dealership's fault and promising payment. But the dealer said it sent a five-month-old check that didn't clear because it was "stale."

So we got in touch with the owner of the dealership to see if we could rescue the Acquistos' credit. And soon, a check for Hyundai motor finance arrived the Acquistos' door.

The sales manager at the dealership said the big takeaway is that if you make a similar deal, you shouldn't trust the dealership to pay off your old car's financing deal. Instead, ask the dealership to cut you a check made out to the financing company, which you receive when you take delivery of the new car. You -- not the dealership -- will pay off your old financial deal.

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