5 On Your Side

Car Fire Leaves Harnett County Couple Hot

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ANGIER, N.C. — Some 40 million used cars are sold every year. Most are affordable, reliable transportation.

But as Dawn Lynn Crawford found out, buying used can also be a risk. That's because under North Carolina law, once you buy a used car, it's yours, no matter what happens.

Crawford said a car she and her husband bought from Deacon Jones Auto Park in Smithfield caught fire about 30 minutes after they drove it off the lot.

“Smoke started coming out of the dash board and then fire came out," Crawford said. "Forty-five seconds later, the car was fully engulfed, and the windows were blowing out.”

Crawford said her husband, Joe, barely made it out. The fire turned the 1999 Buick LeSabre into charred metal. Investigators said it appears a fan motor in the heating/cooling system failed.

Crawford immediately called the salesman. She said he promised to "make it right."

But three days later, the dealership told the couple to file a claim with their insurance company. The Crawfords think that's unfair, since they didn't even have the $6,800 car for an hour.

“I could see if it was, you know, a day later, or two days later, or you know two weeks or a month later,“ Crawford said. “But it was only 30 minutes. The ink hadn't even dried on the paperwork. They hadn't submitted anything to the finance company.”

Crawford said several weeks later, when she told Deacon Jones employees she would call Five On Your Side, the salesman offered to sell her any car for what the dealership paid. But Crawford said that did not fix the fact that a claim is now on her insurance.

Deacon Jones General Manager Ken Jones told Five On Your Side that legally he could not file the claim with the dealership's insurance company.

He believes with insurance, no one loses. He said to rip up the deal would have cost him "about a $5,000 loss." He called the situation a "freak thing" that hasn't happened before in 27 years of business.

Crawford agrees it's unusual, and feels between the insurance claim and the scare, Jones should have just deleted the deal and started over.

“I think they should have eaten the money," she said. "They should have done right. I don't think they did right."

Crawford's insurance company paid the claim and said her rates will not increase.

If they do though, Jones told Five On Your Side he would pay the difference. He also covered $155 in towing and gas charges.

The real moral of the story here is with no laws to protect you, before you buy a used car, pay an independent mechanic to check it out. Although it's still no guarantee, it's a big step in protecting yourself from costly problems that become yours the moment you drive the car off the lot.

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