8 on Your Side: Tips on Buying and Fixing a Used Car

LAS VEGAS - Eleven months ago, Douglas Williams bought a minivan with 92,000 miles on it. The dealership replaced the brakes, tires and other components as part of the deal. Douglas, however, never had an independent mechanic check it out.

Five months later, he started experiencing problems with his van.

"After the last oil change, it went a week. It was on the highway. It started sputtering and getting sluggish. I pulled off into a gas station to let it cool. When I started it back up, it sounded like it just gave," he said.

The engine blew, which isn't unusual for a car with that many miles on it. Because Douglas passed on the extended warranty, however, he was going to have to pay for the repairs.

Rather than going to a licensed mechanic, he turned to Craigslist and found a mechanic named Patrick Yannatone.

"We interviewed him. He even let us call his references with him sitting in the front room," Douglas said.

Douglas gave Yannatone approximately $2,000 to replace his engine. All Douglas got in return was an immobile vehicle that had been torn apart. The engine is literally lying on the frame.

"Once he got his money for the parts, he just didn't come… We've blown up his phone with calls and texts and everything else," Douglas said. "His response was, ‘Have a nice life.' You'll get a refund when hell freezes over more or less."

For months, 8 on Your Side has tried to locate Patrick Yannatone, but he is living off the grid. His ads haven't surfaced on Craigslist since his bad deal with Douglas. He seems to have disappeared, which means Douglas is out of luck.

"We're probably going to have to go to a shop. It's probably going to cost us about $3,300 now on top of what we already lost to him," Douglas said.

All of this could have possibly been avoided with a little research. Whenever buying a used car, always have an independent, licensed mechanic inspect it. If it has more than 75,000 miles on it, it's unlikely to be perfect. It will have some problems.

When getting car repairs, research any mechanic or company you use and make sure they're licensed. If they aren't, there is very little recourse other than taking them to small claims court.

In Douglas's case, that's not even possible, because he can't find Yannatone. Douglas reported the matter to police, but because they consider it a civil matter, there is nothing they can do.


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