PENN HILLS, Pa. (KDKA) — The state’s top attorney says he is filing a lawsuit against two used car lots, including one in Penn Hills.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro says he is acting because dealers ripped off the public.
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“We’ve seen an increase in demand for used cars here in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said. “And with that comes an increase in scammers.”
KDKA investigator Meghan Schiller has learned that the two dealerships include Cars R Us Erie and Martino Motors, which is along Rodi Road in Penn Hills.
According to Shapiro, Martino Motors sells vehicles that are not “roadworthy.” He claimed a customer’s brakes failed with his children in the car two weeks after he bought it. Another customer found parts of the car rusted, taped over and painted to look normal.
“The lawsuit seeks to permanently enjoin Mr. Martino and Martino Motors from selling motor vehicles in Pennsylvania, and seeks restitution, civil penalties, costs and other equitable relief,” said Shapiro.
KDKA’s Meghan Schiller visited Martino Motors on Tuesday and the man inside said he “did nothing wrong”. He said he would appear in court in April and planned to tell his truth, saying he did not want to pre-settle and wanted to share his story in court.
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This action comes at a time when the American consumer who buys a used car pays a lot more.
“We are currently seeing used car prices increase by about 40% compared to the same period last year,” said Emilie Voss of Carfax.
Voss points out that a $20,000 car in 2021 will now cost around $28,000 in the lot. Pickups have gone from just under $31,000 in 2021 to almost $40,000 in 2022.
Voss said those numbers matter more than ever.
“This time of year we call the unofficial start of used car buying season because people are starting to get their tax refunds and are looking to invest them,” Voss said. “A lot of times people end up buying used cars.”
Voss wanted to pass on these tips for buyers to keep in mind before hitting the field:
“We say the Carfax report, the independent inspection and the test drive — you really have to do those three things,” Voss said. “It is important to understand the history of the vehicle. Take it for an independent inspection, have a qualified mechanic take a look at it to make sure there are no red flags and everything adds up, the reading on the odometer matches the ‘attrition,'” Voss said. “They can see things you and I can’t see and also take it for a test drive.”
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According to AG Shapiro, follow the advice below:
- Assess your needs: think about how long the vehicle will be used, how long it will last, what size and features you will need, and also determine your budget for purchase, operating and maintenance costs .
- Know your seller: Whether you’re buying from a used car dealership, private owner, or auto auction, first check the reputation and reliability of the seller. Also, ask for all available repair and maintenance records and always check the title to make sure the person selling the car is the legal owner.
- Check the car: While you shouldn’t expect perfection, make sure the car doesn’t have any serious flaws and make safety a top priority. Inspect the car in daylight and good weather. Check the body for rust or cracks. Inspect tires, battery, doors, windows, heating and cooling, lights, exhaust and fluids to make sure they are working properly. Have a trusted mechanic carefully inspect the care before buying it. Test care before committing to purchase. If you are not authorized to test drive the vehicle, do not buy it.
- Read before you sign: Take the time to read and understand any written agreement. Be sure to ask questions. Understand if there is a warranty and what it covers. If you are required to make a deposit, ask if it is refundable and make sure the deposit is included in the contract.