KPRC 2 Investigates online car buying nightmares

HOUSTON – We don’t have to tell you buying a car can be a long and stressful process - but is buying online an easier way to do it? With people staying home because of the pandemic and the national shortage of cars there are now more companies offering online car buying. But not all are created equal. KPRC 2 Investigates talked with upset Vroom customers who say they can’t even drive the cars they bought.

Vroom customers complaints

When you buy a car online, you are buying it sight unseen. No test driving and no kicking the tires, so it’s already a little risky. One online car buying company is standing out from the others and not in a good way.

“We found the Malibu and it was a good price,” explains Vroom customer Andrea Hernandez. “We put the deposit down and I thought, ‘Oh, this is gonna be great.’”

The car buying process at starts out simple. In just a few clicks, Andrea Hernandez bought a used Malibu. That was the week the big freeze hit Texas in February. Now September, Andrea still can’t drive the car because a lack of paperwork means she can’t register the car or get insurance. It’s been one issue after another.

“The tags go to expire. I reach out to from the tag tags are expiring,” said Andrea, “What do we need to do?”

Besides multiple expired paper tags, the car also has mechanical issues and at one point a check Vroom sent her bounced. In May Andrea got a little insight into what was going on with her case with a Vroom representative who accidentally left her a voicemail instead of the previous owner of the Malibu.

“They said, ‘This is whoever from Vroom I’m calling about the Malibu that you sold to us. Unfortunately, the paperwork was wrong. We have, we need your signature, so the new owner so we can sell the car to the new owner.’ That’s in May,” she explains.

Andrea has made dozens of frustrating calls for help. She says at one point customer service reps even made fun of her.

“I got upset, like, obviously, I’ve been hung up on I’ve been lied to, they can see how many times I’ve called in, and the guy’s like laughing at me.”

Vroom customer Christina Cox is dealing with similar issues.

“Regardless of how many times I call email nobody’s able to respond to me nobody has any updates,” said Christina.

She can’t get the title to the Vroom Jeep she bought in March. The worst part, Christina says Vroom ruined her credit score by running repeat credit checks.

“They know they made a mistake. They know it’s their fault. And I don’t think they want to fess up to it or figure out even what are we supposed to do at this point?” said Christina.

How can customers get help from Vroom?

How can customers get help from Vroom? That’s a big question a lot of people have a problem figuring out. Andrea and Christina are part of a “Vroom horror stories” online group. Members have resorted to helping each other troubleshoot issues. They often post emails and phone numbers they used to talk to a real person for help.

Complaints about Vroom

The Better Business Bureau gives Vroom an “F” rating. There are nearly 1900 complaints, with a significant increase in the past few months. Dan Parsons, President of the Better Business Bureau Greater Houston & South Texas, read us just a few of the complaints.

“I’m on my third temporary tag expires in two days. I have a car I cannot legally drive. I have to car leans out. This is my last resort. I paid 20,000 upfront never got my plates. Please help,” said Parsons.

Other common complaints include vehicles misrepresented in photos, customers not receiving necessary paperwork to get their car registered, delayed deliveries, and communication problems - like sending customers in circles.

“People would send back to the escalation team, the warranty team, all these fancy words that basically say we’re ignoring you, but let you feel good about it while you chase yourself on the phone with your 100th phone call,” he explains.

What Vroom says they are doing about customer complaints

Vroom, which also owns Houston-based Texas Direct Auto, sent us a statement saying with an increase in business they are working to adjust.

Vroom Statement on BBB:

“Our goal is for every customer to be 100% satisfied with their Vroom experience. As consumers turn more and more to buying cars online, we are investing significantly in our people, processes, and operations to ensure we can deliver the experience our customers deserve. We always welcome feedback and are committed to responding and working with our customers to ensure they are satisfied.”

Vroom also sent us a statement addressing the problems Andrea and Christina are dealing with.

Vroom Statement on Customer Cases:

“We regret these customers had less than satisfactory experiences with Vroom. We are currently working with both customers to address and resolve their issues as quickly as possible.”

“You don’t treat people this way. You don’t do that you do the right thing by them. And this is not the right thing by anybody,” said Christina.

There are a few complaints about other online car buying sites but nowhere near the number from Vroom customers.

Advice for buying a car online

Dan Parsons with the BBB shared a few tips for buying cars online. He did explain that buying from an online site like Vroom is not the same as buying from a dealership in your area that has an online buying option. With the local dealership, you are less likely to have paperwork issues because the dealership should have an easier time getting the paperwork sorted out.

  • Do your homework first

Check the BBB ratings of companies.

“The reputation in the company critical. You got companies that are on F ratings and others with D minus ratings.”

Also on the BBB website, you can read details from customer complaints. Of course, visiting social media sites may also show you what customers are saying about the product.

  • Make sure you have your paperwork in order

One of the biggest complaints about online car buying is trying to keep all of the paperwork straight.

“Make sure everything is signed, sealed, and delivered. Just like you’re buying the traditional car titling if possible, you can get your own done, pay a notary to go out there maybe even have a dealer assist you,” Parsons explains. “Because right now that’s a big problem, especially since these companies do with all the different offices.”

  • Compare prices and be critical

Once you know the type of car you are looking for, it’s a good idea to compare prices across several websites. You can do this by checking dealerships, carmakers, and places like Kelley Blue Book. This way, if you do come across a super low price online, you may have an idea that something is wrong.

“If it’s a great super fantastic car and the price is ridiculously off. That’s not a mistake. That’s a lowball. Something’s wrong,” said Parsons.

  • Have a plan for getting the vehicle home

In some cases, online car buying sites are hiring out third-party companies to deliver vehicles. In some of the BBB complaints, these companies made customers meet them in random locations or just didn’t show up when they said they would. There’s also a chance you won’t get the chance to really look at the vehicle when it’s being delivered. In some cases, you may be able to drive to a physical location to pick up the vehicle.

The BBB Scam tracker makes it easy to search for problem companies and enter your own complaints. Our KPRC 2 Investigates team is always working to help you if you have a problem. Send news tips to us here.

About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.