Dealerships in Car Buying Service ARE NOT vetted!

I could write a novel on the bad experience I had with the USAA Car Buying Service, but I will do my best to condense it. First of all, I have been told my two dealers that dealers pay USAA to be 'certified dealers', and USAA gets a cut from the deal.  So what is supposed to be a service to veterans is really just more profit for them, but I digress.


My story: I had been car shopping for several months and had pulled car buying certifications for a half a dozen dealerships. I live in Tucson but drove up to Phoenix (140 miles away) to visit a 'certified dealer'. I had a low-mileage Toyota Tundra that I had about 2000-2500 trade equity in. I wanted to get a vehicle that got better gas mileage. The Tundra, as much as I loved it, only got about 14 mpg. Because I have a funiture refurbishing business which I purchase used pieces for, I still needed a vehicle that could both carry furniture and haul a utility trailer. I was also considering buying a vintage travel trailer so I wanted a vehicle that could pull at least a couple thousand pounds. This is an important factor in my experience because tow capacity was a MUST HAVE on my list for a vehicle. Finally, I was also not wanting to finance more than $22000, so I was looking at vehicles that had a True Car price of $25000, give or take. I gave all this same information to the salesperson who called me before I ever even went to the dealership and reitereated it when I got there.


I looked at two vehicles - A 2014 Subaru Outback, which I was told had a tow capacity of 1700 pounds (WRONG! I later found out it has a tow capacity of 2700 pounds). I was then shown a $32000 version of the 2014 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI DSG (diesel powered). The True Car price was $29000, $4000 more than the vehicle I initially inquired about. I was told the vehicle had a tow capacity of 2000 pounds. I dealt with two salesmen, both of whom grossly exaggerated the mpg this vehicle got. Yes, yes... The window sticker said 33 mpg, but both salesmen told me that owners of the vehicle boast getting 50, 60 or more mpg. Still, I was leaning towards the Outback. I liked the shape better. It was more like a SUV/hybrid than a station wagon. The dealership tried to pressure me into buying the VW Sportwagen that night, but I said I wanted time to think about it and I had plans to meet with a friend. The dealership pressured me to take the Sportwagen with me. I know this is a salesman trick to get you to come back, but I welcomed the opportunity to drive the vehicle longer.


I did like the 'ride' of the vehicle so when I returned to the dealership, I said as much, but I emphasized the fact that I wanted a base-model with cloth seats. The reasoning keep my total purchase price down but also because leather seats suck in Arizona. So, this probably would have been a good time for the saleswoman to tell me that this particular vehicle did not come with cloth seats, but she did not. We went in to the dealership to crunch numbers on my trade. They, of course, gave me less than I wanted, but it was within the range the vehicle's trade value. Here's where it gets tricky. I started becoming ill. I have gallstones, and my stomach really began hurting. The saleswoman started giving me crackers, but they didn't help. I just became increasingly ill. Over the span of the next four hours, I took several narcotic pain killers but to no avail. They made me loopy but didn't help the pain. Bottom line here is that the dealership was aware that I was ill, but they just kept pushing the deal. Unable to focus, I buckled and went along with it. When it was all said and done, I had a $29000 car, with dark gray/black interior (the saleswoman did not show me any other options, and when I balked at the price, she said it was the least expensive one on the lot, which after doing a inventory search after the fact, I found out to be a blatant lie. It was actually the second most expensive model. There were 4-5 models that were less). If you have ever lived in a hot state then you know a dark gray vehicle with black interior is not the best choice.


Okay, so I made the purchase and went home. I just wanted to get out of there. I was in so much pain, I literally could not even think straight. I should have told the dealership the next day that I was not happy with the purchase, but I felt I was stuck. However, when the salesperson the customer QA woman called a couple of weeks later, I did express my discontent. Needless to say, their attitudes were like "Oh well..." I contacted BBB, but the dealership insisted I got the vehicle I wanted. I posted here on USAA, and I woman named Shauntal from True Car contacted the dealership 'on my behalf' but could only get them to agree to 'let me trade it in (at a loss) toward the purchase of another vehicle from them). Also, it seemed to me that Shauntal was on the dealerships 'side' as she was apathetic toward me in every conversation we had. Somewhere in the process of considering whether I should trade it back, however, I started contemplating just keeping it. I began research on having a hitch put on the vehicle, and guess what I discovered? The diesel version of the VW Jetta Sportwagen has NO tow capability. As a matter of fact, the owner's manual says towing with the vehicle will void the warranty because it will likely destroy the engine. I told this both to Shauntal of True Car and the customer representative at the dealership, and basically they put the responsibility on me. I should have checked the information the salesperson gave me? REALLY? When I was in the Army in IT, and IF I were to give erroneous information to my customers, that was MY fault because I was the SME.


So, here is the bottom line. The dealership lied to Shauntal, to BBB, to the Attorney General (who I contacted later), and I am sure they will also lie to VW Corporate, who I also informed of the situation. Shauntal from True Car said that they had sold many vehicles through this dealership and had never had a complaint. I checked the BBB on this dealership (after I purchased the vehicle), and they have nearly 30 complaints against them in the past two years. This is unbelievable that they are on the certified dealership list! Shauntal from True Car did say they were on a 30-day 'watch' list. If another complaint came in, they would be reprimanded and possibly dropped from the list. Seriously? They committed overt fraud against a veteran, nothing was done to properly remediate the situation, and they get put on a 30-day watch list?


Maybe I was stupid for not thoroughly researching the vehicles I was interested in and not researching the dealership ahead of time. I traded out of the vehicle after three months because it didn't meet my needs so this was a $6000 lesson for me. The dealership I went to, I had purchased from before. They are not on USAA Car Buying Service. They sold me a vehicle that was less than the KBB value (last time I got a vehicle that was several thousand under KBB). They gave me a thousand more for the trade value of the VW Sportwagen. I got a great interest rate (better than what USAA offered), and I walked out happy with the vehicle I purchased.


I will NEVER use USAA Car Buying Service again!!! I did better on my own vetting the dealership ahead of time and doing the research instead of 'trusting' that the dealership was actually interested in doing right by a veteran. Shame on USAA for having dealerships like the one I bought the VW from on their list of certified dealers!


Your frustration is only partly justified and I'm not sure that USAA is to blame here. First of all you should've done more homework before you went car shopping, especially when it comes to towing capabilities and capacities, etc.


You're absolutely right that the dealership should've been more helpful, but dealerships are notorious for upselling and all that jazz. It all comes down to Caveat Emptor in the end and that simply means 'buyer beware'. As the purchaser it is your ultimate responsibility to make sure that your vehicle is what your want before you sign the bottom line.


You should've taken a freind or a family member with you to help you think things through clearly and concisely. 


Also, I can tell you that I've personally walked out on several deals at the very last minute because of unscupulous ADD-ON and FEES! Don't be afraid to tell them to stick it when they're being dishonest. BTW, I too, own a Tundra and love it, but don't love the poor gas mileage either.