Consumers Speak: Volkswagen’s Not-So-Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles

Here’s a depressing story from Melanie O. It seems that Volkswagen’s ‘Certified Pre-Owned’ program can mean, well, whatever a dealership wants it to mean. That’s a shame, too, because we just so happen to be fans of the company’s product.

Melanie writes:

Six months ago, I purchased a “Certified Pre-Owned” (CPO) car from a Southern California Volkswagen dealer, and it’s been a nightmare.
I was told that the car had undergone a 112-point inspection and that they knew of no previous accidents.
Silly me… I trusted the CPO program enough that I didn’t take the car to my mechanics before buying it.

Days after the purchase, the transmission and clutch gave out on me.
The car has been in and out of the local dealership for numerous repairs ever since, but I really started to get worried when I was told that a sunroof leak couldn’t be fixed under warranty, because it is due to faulty repairs following an accident.
I finally took the car to my regular mechanics, and within 30 seconds they were able to point out multiple signs of previous accidents and faulty repairs that should have been noticed during the inspection.

The dealership that sold me the car refuses to take it back for the purchase price, or even to complete all of the repairs that should have been done as part of the CPO certification process.
That’s really not a huge surprise. Car dealers have been ripping people off for decades.
What pisses me off, though, is that the Volkswagen corporation refuses to stand up for their guarantee.

Melanie gets a brush off from VW corporate, after the jump.

I’ve spoken with 2 customer service reps and a corporate regional manager for the company, who’ve all told me that VW leaves it up to the dealer to decide if a car qualifies as “Certified Pre-Owned.”
In the event that the dealer chooses not to do the “required” inspection or decides to lie about the findings, VW has no recourse and will not intervene on behalf of the customer.
So it seems the VW CPO inspection is only a suggestion.
The corporate office offered to cover all of the repairs, but when I took the car in for service, I was told that they’d only cover a “diagnosis of the sunroof problem.”

I’m shocked that this program was Intellichoice’s pick for best non-luxury certified pre-owned program.
At this point, I have a car that needs repair, a CPO guarantee that’s completely worthless, and a complete lack of trust in a brand I used to love.
My family and I have been loyal VW/Audi customers for years, and I’m sad to have to take my business elsewhere.


Edit Your Comment

  1. SecureLocation says:

    And she forgot to mention that even brand new VWs that have never been in an accident are crappy cars that have lots of quality problems.

  2. Anabelle says:

    Too late to help Melanie, but: and a number of other services (Google for VIN accident) will provide an accident history for a previously registered vehicle, using its vehicle identification number. I haven’t used any of these services yet, but were I looking at a “pre owned” (sheesh!) car, I probably would. Anyone have experience with Carfax or similar others? Too bad about VW. My first two cars were used Beetles, still remembered fondly.

  3. Paul D says:

    I bought a CPO 1998 Jetta back in 2001 (my second Jetta). Loved that car; sold it to my brother last year, he still drives it (130k miles and counting). The CPO warranty was 2 years or like 25000 miles or something. I had only one minor issue in that time frame (with a faulty cruise control module) and that was at the very end of the warranty period. I took it in and they fixed it, and a couple of other potential future problems (under warranty) even though they hadn’t “broken” yet. Since then it’s needed one window regulator, a new battery, and a new alternator. All things to be expected on an 8-year-old car.

    I know it’s hip and cool to bash Volkswagen, but the fact is they engineer some great vehicles and there are just as many satisfied VW owners out there as unsatisfied. Regardless, it’s true that VW has made lots of quality mistakes in the past (google “VW coilpacks” for information on THAT fiasco). That said, they’re getting better and have always been fun cars to drive. I’d take one in a second over ANY American brand.

  4. Paul D says:

    I’d like to add that I sympathize with Melanie. She had the misfortune of having to do business with an unscrupulous dealership. It’s inexcusable for the dealership to either “miss” the fact that the car had been in an accident, or knowingly certify it anyway.

    That kind of shoddy practice could have killed her. If the damage had been more severe, the frame could have done all kinds of wacky stuff at high speed or during a turn or, god forbid, in an accident.

  5. Paul D says:

    I’ve used Carfax twice; merely as a precaution, not because I necessarily suspected anything. The reports came back clean on both vehicles.

    It’s not a bad expenditure for some peace of mind.

  6. Jen says:

    It seems to me that the dealer makes all the difference with VW. I bought my Beetle from a dealer here and was lucky that my dad encouraged me to negotiate a 30 day bumper-to-bumper warranty. Turned out that the radio didn’t work and the check engine light came on a few days after I drove it off the lot. In getting those things fixed, the dealer lied to me about having parts in inventory, sold parts that I had ordered sent to them directly from VW, and wasted a lot of my time. I’ve had no problems with the other VW dealer in town. So my advice is to do some research on the dealer before you buy from VW.

  7. DeeJayQueue says:

    Something to remember about carfax and just about any internet reporting method:
    They only come back with accidents that were reported to the insurance company or to the police. Unfortunately this happens a lot when drunk drivers hit things on the way home from the bar and don’t want to report it. I bought a Jeep and the carfax was clean but it had obviously been in an accident (differences in paint finish, orange-peel texture on the new panels, front end geometry out of square). Basically, make friends with a mechanic, and take your car to him or bring him to the car to look at it. Don’t ever trust anything a car dealer says, any CPO programs or any other crap they try to shove on you… even at reputable dealerships it’s all just marketing.

  8. Treved says:

    Yet another reason to avoid VW. Me, I avoid it simply because it’s a Nazi car.

  9. billhelm says:

    A mechanic of your own choosing sould ALWAYS inspect a vehicle before you buy it. NEVER TRUST THE DEALER.

    I bet the author learned her lesson.

  10. k10commenter says:

    I drive a VW and love it. Not a single problem to date, but I also bought it new. Two things:

    1. I was told when I bought this car by the finance manager (a friend of mine) to not even waste my time looking at CPO cars. They slap the CPO title on the car, jack up the price and sell it to you. He recommended buying a used car and an extended warranty. Same idea, cheaper price tag. I don’t know all of the details because I went with the new model, but just a thought…

    2. A friend bought a CPO Saab and had terrible, reoccuring problems. He talked to Saab corporate and decided to hire a lawyer to sort the problems out. He sued the dealership for fradulent practice (or something like that), went to mediation and won a nice settlement.

    And everyone is right – Never trust the dealership!!! They will do ANYTHING to sell someone a car!

  11. LLH says:

    sweetheart, here in california we have LEMON LAWS. sue they’re lying asses for fraud, endangerment, & in breech of contract. here’s the link:

  12. AcidReign says:

    …..My brother bought a Passat (due to Motor Trend recommendations…) a few years ago, and it burnt up an engine within a few weeks, had to have the transmission replaced twice, master cylinder once. Then, after about 5 months, the AC, brake lights and stereo started blowing fuses like popcorn.

    …..The warranty expired while the car was back in the dealer’s shop, having the electrical problems worked on for the fourth time. And the dealer (Roy Bridges VW) informed him that he’d have to pay for all of the electrical repairs, since the date of the bill was AFTER the warranty expired. (The car was brought in two weeks prior…)

    …..My brother was outraged. He started legal action. Alabama has lemon-laws, but the rep from the local VW dealer promised my brother and his lawyer that they’d tie the case up in court for a minimum of five years, during which he’d have no transportation, and depreciation would ensue. His only alternative was to sign Roy Bridge’s proffered settlement, in which they offered to refund his purchase money, minus a $4500 restocking/use fee. And the lawyer advised him to take it!

    …..And so, he paid about $4500 plus $779 in legal fees for the privlege of driving an unreliable clunker for a year. The above posts show that he was not alone in his misery!

    …..Meanwhile, my Carmax Mazda has run like a top…

  13. ryansoxfan says:

    I’m in Watertown CT and went to the Valenti dealer here to buy my son his very first car. He was on the internet checking what would be a good safe car for months before we bought a 2006 Jetta there. He worked for over a year to save his money and got $4000 for the down payment and he is working to pay all the monthly payments. He had the car about 3 monthes when he called me that his clutch wouldn’t work and he was stuck. thinking the car was under warrenty I didn’t think this would be a big problem. The car only had 17,000 miles on it and he had only put maybe 3000 of those miles on it.Well it sure was. The company said it was not covered under the warrenty because he must have beat on it to make the clutch go so quick. Yes, he is a teenager but he did not beat on it and wouldn’t because it was his pride and joy and he is paying for it. they wanted $2000 to fix it!! So we told them we wanted to take it somewhere else where we could get it fixed cheaper and they told us we would have to pay for them looking at it before we could take it!! This just keeps getting more outrageous every day and we still don’t have the car fixed. We have called the VW company and filed a complaint but it still is not helping. This is not a good company if you want them to honor their warrenty.

  14. no1finr says:

    I sympathize with anyone who purchased a new beetle! I bought a very special limited edition Flint Convertible (yes, it has its own website), thinking it was an “investment” due to the limited availability. I have had 2 other VW’s and loved both of them. This car, I am sure, is possessed by a demon. In 26,000 actual miles, it has been back to the dealership no less than 15 times – for MANUFACTURING defects. I should have stopped after the first visit – under 2,000 miles and it had to live at the dealership for 2 weeks to get the “valve box for the transmission replaced”. It has had 2 electric window motors replaced/repaired; 1 window replaced, brake light switch was replaced twice, dipstick had to be replaced, air-conditioning had to be re-installed, carpet had to be removed and cleaned and the padding and installation replaced due to improper installation of the air conditioner (it was dumping condensation to the interior of the car. One headlight had to be removed, emptied and reinstalled because it was half full of sloshing water! VW of America responded with “we are sorry you are having these problems.” …and that was it from them. On average, this lemon has been in the shop every other month since its purchase. Luckily, I found a lemon law attorney to help me!

  15. no1finr says:

    look for a lemon law attorney – my nightmare started at less than 2000 miles – 14 trips to the dealership later (and 26000 total miles) and the lemon law attorney tells me VW should buy it back and is helping with that. What a nightmare! To think I used to love VW’s!