Money Wise--New Car Concerns - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

05/13/04

Money Wise--New Car Concerns

Since buying a new car is a pretty big deal, of course you want everything to go perfectly smoothly. But every now and then that brand new car may have a small defect, and just in case this ever happens to you, you need to know exactly how to handle it.

Vince Megna is a lawyer who's handled several cases involving cars that weren't up to standards. And he's gotten so good at it, he's written a book called Bring on Goliath. The book is centered around the so-called lemon law, which is designed to protect consumers from buying bad brand-new cars.

"One out of every 20 cars is a bona fide lemon," Megna said. And he's not talking about used cars, he's talking about new cars.

So we checked in with Jim Mollica, the general manager of Chatham Parkway Toyota. He disagrees with Megna's numbers, but admits all new cars are not flawless.

"There's probably 20 to 30 million cars retailed in the United States each year and there's going to be a small percentage that do have problems or some type of defect," he said.

So, what's the first thing you should do as soon as you notice something isn't right with your new car? Both Megna and Mollica have the same advice. "Keep good records of your visits to the car dealerships," Megna said. "The problems, the trouble on the freeway. Keeping records is so critical and people don't do that cause they're not anticipating having problems. But once you do, start taking notes."

And worst-case scenario, if the car dealership can't fix the problem, you may have to deal directly with the manufacturer.

Megna says from there, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer because your attempts at solving the problem on your own may not work. "You're going to drop your case, trade your car and say, 'I lost five or six thousand dollars and so be it,'" he said. "But you don't have to lose five or six thousand dollars."

But first, Mollica says, try to get things fixed at the dealership level, because even though they aren't the car manufacturer, they could solve the problem.

And Mollica says that's what they want to do because most dealerships pride themselves on good customer service. "If we sell cars and don't stand behind them, in a year or two, there's no more customers and there's no more business," he said. "So we're in the business to help customers, to satisfy their needs and sell them the best product available on the market today."

Again, when there is a problem, make sure you keep good records, which includes taking your own notes and keeping all the receipts from your visits to the dealership, from the big car repairs to the small ones. 

If you have money questions you'd like answered in Money Wise, email moneywise@wtoc.com.

Reported by: Dmitra Denmark, ddenmark@wtoc.com

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