Car dealership complaints tops CFA list of customer gripes

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Car dealership complaints topped the annual list of most-complained about industries from the Consumer Federation of America. Photo Credit: M.O. Stevens/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Most car dealerships, just as with many industries, are perfectly legitimate, but there a certain number of bad apples. However, those bad apples leave a bitter taste, as car dealership complaints took the top spot of common consumer gripes in an annual Consumer Federation of America survey.

CFA survey routinely puts car dealership complaints at the top

Though most car dealers are honest enough, the stereotype of the crooked car salesman exists for a reason. For some time, the Consumer Federation of America, a consumer affairs and advocacy organization, has been publishing a list of the most frequent consumer complaints in conjunction with some similar organizations. For the past several years running, car dealership complaints have been the most common.

The CFA’s list of consumer gripes was topped by car dealerships in 2009, according to MSNBC, and again in 2010, according to Consumer Reports. Consumers were especially peeved with being misled by advertising for new and used cars, bad repairs, being sold lemons and disputes over repairs and towing.

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At least they are consistent

If anything else, credit is deserved for being consistent, as the CFA’s list of most common consumer complaints for 2011 has just been released, according to CNN. True to form, car dealerships have topped the list again. Once again, respondents to the survey by the Consumer Federation of America, were not amused by false advertising, leasing and repair disputes, botched repair jobs and being sold lemons.

Other agencies noticed too

The Better Business Bureau also gets it’s fair share of complaints about auto dealers. The BBB, though, doesn’t categorize all auto-related businesses together, counting used car and new car dealerships, auto service shops and parts companies as separate entities. In 2010, according to the Spokane BBB website, three of the top 10 most complained about industries nationwide were car-related. New car dealers ranked the highest at third, with 24,698 complaints, behind cable and satellite companies and wireless carriers. Used car dealers and auto repair and service companies were at sixth and seventh, respectively, with 14,520 and 13,178 complaints.

In 2011, according to the Charlotte BBB, new car dealers climbed to second, with 25,983 complaints. Used auto dealers and auto repair shops were ranked fifth and ninth, with 16,264 and 14,490 complaints, respectively.

Lower share of FTC complaints

Dealerships and auto service stations, though, aren’t the worst offenders in complaints to the Federal Trade Commission, the consumer agency with legal teeth. Car dealership complaints, according to CNN, ranked seventh overall in the number of FTC complaints. According to, there were 77,435 auto-related complaints that year. About 40 percent of complaints were about new car dealers, roughly 10 percent more than those about used car dealers.

However, that represents a significant spike, as car-related complaints weren’t in the top 10 in 2010, according to the Huffington Post, or in 2009, according to the Chicago Tribune. In 2009, auto-related complaints were number 17.




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