OLATHE, Kan. — It’s never a good sign when a guy selling questionable cars won’t stop his car to answer a question from FOX4 Problem Solvers, but our experience with Austin Elmer didn’t surprise Courtney Halford.
“He said it was nice and reliable,” said Halford, pointing to the SUV she had purchased from Elmer.
The day after Halford bought it, she had trouble getting it to even start. Concerned, she took it to an automotive repair shop her family trusted. What she learned wasn’t good.
“He brought us in and said, ‘in over 50 years this is the worst rust and corrosion that I’ve ever seen in a car,’” said Halford, shaking her head.
The mechanic told her the brakes were so bad they were at risk of breaking in two, so was the axle. The spare tire was rusted into place. It would take a blow torch to detach it.
Halford said the mechanic warned her that he, “would not let a family member drive it. It never should have been sold. It’s too dangerous to be on the road.”
Who would sell a car this bad? As we mentioned earlier, all our attempts to talk to Austin Elmer failed, whether in person or by phone. We’re not the only ones Elmer won’t talk to. Halford said he’ll also no longer return her calls or messages.
She said she’s been blocked from his Facebook pages and his phone.
That’s a far different Elmer than Halford met last Memorial Day at an Olathe car lot. Halford and her father went to the lot after seeing a car on Facebook Marketplace they were interested in buying.
But when they arrived, that car had already been sold. Halford said Elmer told her he still had plenty others for sale.
“Listen, I’ve got a bunch of cars here today,” she said she was told. “So, what are you looking for?”
Halford thought she was dealing with a licensed car dealer, but she later learned that Elmer has no license – even though he boasted on Facebook how he makes a good living selling cars.
Halford bought a 2004 GMC Envoy from Elmer for $3,100. She said he wanted the money in cash and promised her it was a great deal.
But the closer you look at the car, the worse it gets. Carfax posted an alert warning buyers of a potential rollback, meaning the SUV Halford thought had 155,000 miles on it when she purchased it might actually have 255,000.
FOX4 Problem Solvers showed Kansas City consumer attorney Bernard Brown a pile of paperwork documenting the SUV’s many problems.
“With the rollback and everything this car belongs on a junk heap,” Brown said. “It doesn’t belong on the road. That’s pretty obvious.”
Brown, who has spent his career fighting consumer fraud in the auto industry, said bad cars are being sold everywhere because states are not doing enough to protect the public.
“There is a huge problem in this country of salvage cars not being titled or reported as salvage cars,” Brown said.
At first, FOX4 Problem Solvers was hopeful that Elmer would be happy to help Halford solve this problem by returning her money. But after Elmer drove away from us (behind the wheel of a car with a dealer’s plate) without saying a word, we headed to the office where we met Michael Cantwell.
He said he was the owner of the car lot and the guy with the dealer’s license. He said Elmer does not sell cars on his lot but has his own automotive repair business in an adjoining building. Cantwell insisted that whatever happened to Halford had nothing to do with him. He then asked us to leave the property.
So how can Halford solve this problem? Since Elmer was not talking and Cantwell claimed innocence, Halford has reported the car lot to the Kansas Department of Revenue’s Dealer’s Licensing section.
It’s now investigating and would like to hear from anyone who might have purchased a car from Austin Elmer.
If you bought a car from this lot and would like to file a complaint, click here.