This story will air on News Channel 3 at 10 p.m. Thursday. Video will be added here after the story airs.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shopping at a traditional car dealership could be a thing of the past for some, as more and more people opt to have their ride delivered directly to their doorstep.
From companies like Vroom and Carvana to person-to-person sales, buying vehicles online has become increasingly popular.
But as the NewsChannel 3 Investigators discovered, that convenience can come with a cost.
Matthew Vanderbloemen bought an Acura RDX from the online car dealer Vroom.
With a slogan like ‘buy your next ride entirely online’, Vroom appealed to Vanderbloemen, who was moving from Washington, D.C. to Memphis and needed a car.
“Because I didn’t own a vehicle, it was the easiest way for me to purchase a vehicle. You know, I didn’t necessarily need to have someone drive me around to different dealerships to figure it out,” he said.
Billy Smith also used Vroom for his last car purchase. He bought an F-150, perfect for pulling his family’s RV.
“It was very convenient,” Smith said. “They were able to take care of everything, the financing, the… all of it, the delivery and all of that. So that made it convenient.”
However, that convenience soon turned into complications.
Despite the company’s name, there was nothing speedy about dealing with Vroom for Smith, Vanderbloemen and thousands of other customers, a recent WREG investigation found.
Customers waited months to get their vehicles registered and others say they didn’t get what they paid for, our investigation found.
The Texas Attorney General is suing Vroom. The company is a licensed dealer in the state and has a large presence there. The suit outlines complaints similar to those WREG uncovered.
“All of the innovation they were trying to pursue has been so poorly executed that it’s led me to be like, well, the time to do it the old fashioned way, go to a real dealer, talk to a real person,” said Vanderbloemen, who waited more than six months for title and registration documents.
It took more than seven months for Smith to get a title and register his truck. During that time, Smith said it was difficult to get anyone on the phone at Vroom. He said he often waited on hold, only to finally speak to someone who couldn’t help him.
“I would advise anybody who is looking at doing business over line on something like a vehicle and quite frankly with Vroom, if you want to do that. From my personal experience, I would be cautious and I would verify multiple reviews.”
It’s advice that could help other consumers avoid the trouble Smith faced.
Mid-South Better Business Bureau President Randy Hutchinson says consumers need to do their homework before making such a pricey purchase.
“Every dealer is selling cars online now and certainly doing that during the pandemic. That’s probably how they sold almost all of them. So you always want to check the dealer out,” Hutchinson said.
3 Steps to Take Before Buying a Car Online
Step #1-Dig into the Dealer
- Read online reviews
- Check for an active license
- Search for any disciplinary action against the dealer
The same day our Vroom investigation aired, state regulators issued an alert regarding increased complaints.
It warned consumers about buying vehicles online from unlicensed individuals and unlicensed out of state companies. State regulators say unfortunately, there aren’t many remedies they can provide if you hand over your money to an unlicensed operator.
Step #2-Research the vehicle
- Get a Carfax Report
- Test drive the car (if at all possible)
- Be sure to understand the return and refund policy
Hutchison says consumers are taking a big risk buying a car sight unseen.
“Be wary if the dealer doesn’t offer you, you know, tons of pictures of the car from every angle. Many of them have videos that so that you can see the car,” Hutchinson told WREG.
Step #3-Watch out for scams
- Watch for red flags such as unusual payment methods
- Be cautious with sellers that will only communicate via text or social media
- Don’t hand over cash
Hutchinson added, “A lot of those that you’ll see in a Craigslist or some other classified, online classified are individuals. Just a lot of opportunity for out and out scams.”
Experts say it’s also a good idea for buyers to arrange financing ahead of shopping. This allows consumers to develop a budget and won’t force them into dealing with a specific lender.