RALEIGH — Five On Your Side gets a lot of calls about used cars. Unfortunately, few laws in North Carolina protect used car buyers. In general, once you buy it, it is yours with two notable exceptions. One of those exceptions applied to a Nash County man.
Phillip Pringle thought he found a good used car for his son last November. He paid Martin Auto Haus in Raleigh more than $5,500 for a 1993 Chevy Caprice Classic.
"It was a pretty good deal," he said.
But when the Department of Motor Vehicles mailed him the title, he realized the car was not such a good deal. It said "Total Loss Claim" and was branded "salvage rebuilt."
"I looked at it and I was like, you know, 'What does this mean?'" Pringle said.
It meant the car was wrecked and repairs cost at least 75 percent of what the vehicle was worth.
"You don't know what happened to the vehicle. Whether it was put back together, ripped in half, torn apart -- anything along that line. So you know, I just kind of felt unsafe about it," Pringle said.
North Carolina law requires car sellers to disclose in writing when a vehicle has salvage or flood history, so Pringle went back to Martin Auto Haus to get his money back. Owner Derrick Martin told Pringle he did not know about the salvage title, but Pringle did not buy it.
It was not until Pringle complained to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office that Martin promised a "full refund." But when Pringle took the car back, Martin told him he kept $465 in sales tax and fees.
"I think it's nonsense. I think it's nonsense," Pringle said.
When Martin would not budge, Pringle called Five on Your Side. When Five On Your Side called Derrick Martin, he sent Pringle the remaining $465.
Pringle said next time he buys a car, he will do a title search first.
"I've learned you've got to be more careful," he said.
Pringle has since bought another used car for his son. This time, he checked the title first and had the car checked by a mechanic, which is one of the most important things you can do before buying a used car. They can find problems most people would never notice.
You should also make sure the mechanic is not associated with the dealership so you have an independent opinion.