Area dealerships overcharging tens of thousands on car lease buyouts

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Thursday, March 10, 2022
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Nina Pineda and 7 On Your Side have more on the dealerships overcharging on car lease buyouts.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- With used car prices doubling this year, more car owners than ever at the end of leases have been buying them out instead of turning them in.

But earlier this year, 7 On Your Side told you about a buyout boondoggle where dealerships overcharged customers thousands on lease buyouts.

Now, Nina Pineda has the results of a two-month investigation showing a disturbing trend of how widespread this problem is.

What began with two angry car customers, quickly jumped to a total of 10 new people coming to 7 On Your Side venting virtually about dealerships demanding fees.

"I felt so stupid," said Nissan customer Jose Montenegro.

"I just felt powerless," said Nissan customer Mark Nieto.

They all got slapped with thousands buying out their car leases.

"$1,885.74," said Nissan customer Gail Kappel.

"$4,116.26," said Nissan customer Lisa Plunkett.

Every one of them saw our first story where we help two families get $4,300 back from their lease buyouts.

"It's justice, we got justice," said Nissan customer Keri Cromer back in January.

"So how much did you get back?" Pineda asked.

"$1,500," said Anton Shipman, a Nissan customer, back in January.

All 10 new victims say they too were blindsided after going to their local Nissan dealers to buy their cars.

The price to buy out your lease is already negotiated in writing on the original lease contract, called the "Residual Value."

But, when Montenegro went to Rockland Nissan, his dealership jacked up the buyout price on his Rogue.

"The first one showed the residual value of $15,000, and now it's showing $20,000," Montenegro said.

His daughter Lisa questioned the higher price.

"What'd they call it again?" Pineda asked.

"Cost of living adjustment," Plunkett said.

"They called it a dealer fee," Greenberg said.

"It was a lemon law fee," said Joe Macaluso, a Nissan customer.

None of these phantom fees with different names were ever written on the dealer invoice. Kappel says she only found her fee in writing stuck on the wall behind her salesman.

"And he pointed to a sign in back and he said, 'No, this is the charge that we charge for processing,'" Kappel said.

In all, 7 On Your Side found eight New York area Nissan dealerships in Rockland, Nassau, Suffolk and Staten Island overcharging an average of $2,628 per customer.

"That they're overpricing things like this, I mean it's crazy," Plunkett said.

Perhaps the craziest was at Nissan of Garden City.

"I was overcharged $3,057," said Phillip Van Manen, Nissan of Garden City customer.

"I was overcharged $5,420," said Alex Kim, a Nissan of Garden City customer.

Three customers fleeced more than $12,000 ($12,277). And when they say they complained to Nissan Corporate?

"Nissan was saying that the dealer could charge whatever they want," Nieto said.

More 7 On Your Side | Pain at the pump: NYC 'gas police' conducting random checks at stations

But Nissan told us different. Saying its dealerships can only charge fees collected by the state, like taxes and registration fees.

Nissan said these phantom fees were improper and actually violated the original lease and are not allowed by Nissan.

And after we contacted the dealerships?

"Who got their checks?" Pineda asked. All raised their hands.

Every dealership showed them the money. A couple tried to make the refunds contingent on them signing agreements not to talk about it.

"I said the only thing I'm going to sign is the back of that check," Macaluso said.

None signed but all were paid. 7 On Your Side got back $31,533.

"I can't thank you enough," Montenegro said.

"7 On Your Side is amazing," Greenberg said.

RELATED | 7 On Your Side takes you undercover inside a dealership to hear firsthand the dealership deception

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