'It's like an epidemic': Problems with used cars continue to cost drivers thousands

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Imagine paying thousands of dollars worth of repairs all after just buying a car. It's the reality many drivers are facing right now with the low supply of used cars on the market.

Amanda Outland is one of those shoppers who were desperate to find a reliable car. She finally found one on a used car lot and paid more than $13,000 for it.

"When I found this one, it was kind of one of the only available that I could afford," Outland said. "I trusted that it was in good condition."

However, soon after buying the SUV, she said, "It started making a lot of noise, jerking, losing power, essentially it would not go up hills."

After taking it to several shops, Outland learned the car she just bought needed a new transmission, plus other repairs to a tune of $8,000-$10,000.

"What am I going to do? There's no way you know, I can't afford to fix it," Outland said.

Since she bought the car "As Is," the place she bought it from wouldn't help.

"We have nothing to say. You bought it, you signed, good luck," she said she was told.

Outland is not alone as Troubleshooter Diane Wilson continues to hear from dozens of viewers monthly who recently bought used cars.

"It's like an epidemic. We didn't see it before the pandemic," said Steve Sargent, the owner of Mr. Transmission in Cary. "I think it's an effect of very few new cars available. The used cars are what everyone's vying for them and the prices have gone up."

Sargent said a key step used-car buyers should do before buying any used car, is to take the vehicle to a mechanic they trust and have it checked out.

"Estimate the cost of the repairs to get the car up to the standard and then its negotiating ability, if you will, with a used car dealership to say hey, it needs $1,500 worth of work," Sargent said. "I'll give you this number and you can kind of negotiate a better purchase."

After Sargent heard about Outland's troubles with her used car purchase he wanted to help.

"I said I would do it at my cost to try to help her situation because she had limited funds. We put a transmission in it. We put tires on it, new brakes," Sargent said.

That work was a huge relief to Outland and it got her back on the road.

"I wanted to cry when I picked it up," Outland said.

After going through this used-car-buying ordeal, she now has this advice for others: "Definitely have it taken to be looked at and make sure that it's a quality vehicle. I didn't want to pay for someone to look at it, which in retrospect seems, you know, silly now, but it would have saved me a ton of problems."

It costs an average of about $100 for a mechanic to look at it and tell you what's wrong, it's money well spent if they save you from buying a car with thousands of dollars worth of problems. Remember if you buy a car "As Is," the minute you drive off the lot, all of the problems are yours.
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