More used cars being sold with potentially dangerous issues; 11 Investigates what to look out for

PITTSBURGH — If you’re in the market for a used car - buyer beware!

One Pittsburgh car fraud expert says there’s been an increase in the number of used cars sold with serious issues that could put drivers and their passengers in danger. And in some cases, these cars have been marketed as being “certified pre-owned”- meaning they should have been through a stringent inspection--before a buyer drives off the lot.

Tracy Summerhill-Sibley was in the market for a used car last summer and fell in love with a 2023 black Land Rover Range Rover SUV. At the time she thought it was a safe, reliable choice. She says she couldn’t have been more wrong.

“The very moment we got it off the lot and started driving it, we noticed that there were definitely problems,” said Summerhill-Sibley.

She got home and immediately texted the local used car dealership where she purchased the car. She thought would be a simple fix.

The car was out of alignment, and the wheel pulled hard to the left. Also, the car shimmied every time she hit the brakes.

That was the start of almost a year of back-and-forth over alignment and brake issues that weren’t resolved, tires that lost air, and fluids that were leaking. Summerhill-Sibley initially thought this was a good choice for her teenage son, a new driver, but now she won’t let him in it.

“I don’t feel that the car is reliable enough to let him drive from point A to point B,” she said.

Pittsburgh attorney Christina Gill Roseman Esq., has more than a decade of experience handling cases of cars that are lemons and car dealer fraud. She says she’s seen an uptick in used cars with problems.

“I think the issue is since COVID, there were fewer vehicles around so that dealers were getting vehicles that were not as qualified,” said Gill Roseman.

Right now, Gill Roseman says used pick-up trucks are a hot commodity. That’s also where she’s seeing the most problems.

“I’ve had multiple pickup trucks with frame damage. That’s unsafe. A vehicle with structural damage or frame damage---sure---it can drive you down the road, but if you get hit that’s not going to protect you the way that it’s supposed to. It doesn’t pass state inspection or shouldn’t pass state inspection if it has frame damage, yet these vehicles were certified.”

Vehicles that are certified pre-owned are supposed to be reconditioned to new car standards and pass a 120-point inspection. The dealers should also readily provide you with a car’s accident and repair history, sometimes referred to as a CARFAX report. Gill Roseman says read that carefully before you buy.

“If it’s still in (the shop) a bunch of times for something that you wouldn’t expect for a newer vehicle, that might be a vehicle you would walk away from,” said Gill Roseman.

Here are some other used car red flags, according to Consumer Reports:

Avoid cars that smell of mold or mildew, or that have warning lights come on during a test drive. Cars that sound “loud” during a drive might have been reconstructed. You’ll also want to check for misaligned body panels.

Gill Roseman also advises consumers to check the paperwork carefully when a salesperson hands it to you along with your new car keys. Often, they’ll fold it in thirds- or put it into a folder. When Summerhill-Sibley purchased her used car the dealer handed her certified pre-owned paperwork in a folder, but when she got home, she realized pages were missing.

To this day, Summerhill-Sibley is still fighting for fixes. She does take her used SUV for short drives, but she says that’s only as a last resort.

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