MONTREAL, March 5 /CNW Telbec/ - The Automobile Protection Association released the results of its latest undercover investigation of used car retailing. Posing as ordinary consumers, APA mystery shoppers visited 34 used car dealers and eight curbsiders in Toronto and Vancouver to shop for a used vehicle. Visits were recorded by W5's hidden cameras; a television report on the investigation will air on the Saturday March 6 broadcast of W5 at 7:00 p.m. and can be viewed on the CTV website at www.ctv.ca.
Sellers were evaluated on the accuracy of their advertising and their verbal representations, as well as the condition of the vehicles offered for sale. Overall, two thirds of the used car dealers visited in Vancouver, and all but one dealer in Toronto received failing grades. The full report is posted on the APA website at www.apa.ca.
This year, the APA saw the best selection of vehicles at good prices in any Toronto survey. Even small used car dealers working from a trailer had a good selection of well-priced lease returns, no more than 5 years old. The best performance in Toronto was at Jimiline Fine Cars. The dealership offers all-in pricing, and the salesman made a superior presentation of the Mazda3s offered for sale, as well as correctly disclosing cosmetic damage.
Toronto had the highest amount of extra fees of any mystery shopper survey undertaken by the APA. Among the common misrepresentations:
- Marking up safety certification and emissions-test fees and
representing them as remittances to government or regulatory bodies.
- Excessive charges for completing paperwork and administration.
Quality Auto Wholesale in Scarborough had the highest extra charges of $1,100 for administration, and emissions and safety inspections. New rules that came into effect in January have changed the requirements for price advertising in Ontario, which must now include all extra charges in the advertised price.
APA's best shopping experience in Vancouver occurred at First Rate Motors, 16225 Fraser Highway, in Surrey. The dealer reviewed the ICBC and CarProof reports in his file with the mystery shoppers, without making pages "disappear" from the reports or glossing over records. Only one car on the lot, a 2002 Mercedes, had sustained a collision, which was correctly disclosed. An offsite inspection is permitted.
Five of 18 used car lots visited by APA specialized in remarketing ICBC write-offs. By far the most serious reasons for dealership failures in the Vancouver area were misrepresentations and deceptive practices related to the sale of these severely damaged and repaired vehicles Sellers rely on the ICBC brand and reputation to lull shoppers into believing the vehicles have been rebuilt and inspected to consistent standards. The APA found that was not always the case.
Daily rentals not disclosed
Two Vancouver area dealers failed to disclose used daily rental cars for sale. The seller at Legacy Cars, in Surrey represented a 2008 former Budget Rental Car as a trade from a "business person". Hare Motors in Surrey had a good selection of well-priced vehicles in nice condition, but the seller misrepresented a Toyota Corolla, Camry and Matrix as one-year-old lease returns, when they were former daily rentals.
Deceptive or misleading practices around collision reporting
Claim histories on vehicles are more complete and widely available than in years' past, creating more pressure on dealers to report collision damage accurately. In most cases, damage that was not reported by the dealer was listed at least partially in CarProof's information, which means the dealer was taking a chance that the APA shoppers would not look this information up.
S&S Auto Clinic at 3360 Kinsgton Road in Scarborough, was the worst dealer visited for the investigation. The seller declared that a 2004 Toyota Corolla had sustained a prior collision to the rear fender. The APA determined the Corolla actually consisted of two half cars, badly cut and welded together, and reported to have passed a Ministry of Transportation inspection.
Can I take the vehicle for an off-site inspection? Only two dealers in Toronto and three in Vancouver prohibited a pre-purchase inspection at the buyer's garage; this earned them a fail.
Curbsiders are unlicensed dealers posing as private parties who are selling their personal-use vehicles. The APA discovered them lurking in classified advertising. The APA shopped five Toronto area and three Vancouver area curbsiders.
Roberto looked like the owner or manager of a legitimate retail location at 15 Elrose Avenue in Toronto. Roberto had a well-priced 2005 Sentra which he purchased from Impact Auto (this is a salvage auction that sells mainly wrecked vehicles). According to Roberto, only the front light box had been replaced, but the APA determined the car was a front hit with moderate structural damage. Roberto offered to charge only one tax if the buyers handled the transaction at the M.O.T. alone.
In Vancouver, Ken the curbsider showed the APA shoppers a 2008 Mazda 3 which he said had been involved in a rear impact valued under $3,000. Ken said the Mazda was his personal vehicle, used to drive around his three children, and that he needed something larger. Investigation by W5 confirmed that Ken was peddling cars obtained from salvage auctions on behalf of a dealer. An inspection of the Mazda revealed that the rear impact had been anything but minor; the rear suspension and floor had been twisted, and W5 discovered that the car's former owner made an injury claim after the impact.
What you can do to protect yourself
Have the vehicle inspected before you buy it. The APA has located and tested the following RELIABLE used car inspection services in the cities visited for this investigation.
C. Martino Auto Center, 2055 Clarke Drive, Vancouver, B.C. 604-255-3558
Mechanic Carmen Martino and his crew have worked with APA on many investigations.
Hemrich Brothers Garage, 8506 Ash Street, (Marpole) Vancouver, B.C. 604-325-8511
If you're buying a rebuilt vehicle in Vancouver, this is a shop to consider. A competent mechanical repair facility with good alignment equipment and the experience required to use it, learned from preparing vehicles for competition.
Priority Plus Inspection Centres, 120 Carlauren Road Unit No.4, Woodbridge Tel: 905-264-1142
Mechanic Vince Carnovale has worked with APA on several investigations. He can also help you order the history search that is appropriate for the vehicle you are considering.
Andrew Bleakley at 514-890-5000
This mobile inspection service offers a complete body panel inspection,mechanical inspection, and road test for $100. Call and leave a message on the pager to book an appointment.
SOURCE AUTOMOBILE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION (APA)
For further information: For further information: George Iny, (514) 867-0441 (weekend media line); APA, (514) 273-1662 (main media line)