There is no shortage of tales of stealerships and places taking advantage of people. These establishments should be called out when applicable, but if you buy a crappy car for little money and something goes wrong a year later, it might just be bad luck...or a bad owner.

A story from Valley News Live, a Fargo ND television station, attempted to pin a car fire on a local used car lot. According to the story, on March 4th 2014, Neenah Donnelly bought what appears to be an early 2000’s Dodge Grand Caravan from Catalyst Motors, formally called Affordable Auto. The report doesn’t specifically say what vehicle it is, how many miles were on it, nor do they disclose how much it cost, but the news report does open with this line -

So how do you know if the dealership you’re going to is a reputable business and they aren’t selling lemons?

When Ms. Donnelly was driving on the highway when this happened -

“Coming around Spiritwood it just started sputtering, I thought oh no, not the carburetor, not the carburetor, not this, not here!...Immediately this big black smoke started coming out. I mean it was like thick. So I got out, bent over and looked under the car and there was this fire!”

I don’t have the mechanical knowledge that Tavarish does, but I’m fairly certain that generation Dodge Grand Caravan does not have a carburetor. As to what caused the fire, no one knows because the report doesn’t say. It could have been any number of things, but I think we can safely rule out the carburetor. Donnelly was able to get away from the vehicle unharmed and claims that the car had problems from the start. She blames Affordable Auto, the place where she bought the car, over a year ago.

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The purpose of this post is not to engage in the time honored tradition of internet victim blaming. It is very likely that this woman bought a cheap car that needed some work and ran into a bit of bad luck. That happens to all of us. My issue is with the news station spinning this story to blame the dealer for a bad ownership experience that they most likely were not responsible for. There are plenty of dealers who pull shady stuff like interest rate manipulation, title washing, and the list goes on.

However, buying a large complicated machine is a risk. Cars aren’t perfect and they fail sometimes. If you bought a new car and something went wrong, most people would point the finger at the manufacturer, not the dealer where they purchased it. Used cars tend to carry a little more risk than new vehicles. That is why it is crucial to do some research and know what you are getting into before parting with your money. And we can’t stress this enough...before you buy a pre-owned vehicle, get it inspected by a professional. A good inspection will most likely save you money and hassle down the road.

If you have a question, a tip, or something you would like to to share about car-buying, drop me a line at AutomatchConsulting@gmail.com and be sure to include your Kinja handle.