‘Almost had a heart attack’: Online vehicle sales can be risky

PALM BAY, Fla. — A man in Palm Bay fears losing $70,000 from an online vehicle sale. He contacted Action 9′s Todd Ulrich four months after paying a dealership for a new recreational vehicle he still doesn’t have.

Dennis Steel says he couldn’t find the RV he wanted at the right price in central Florida. Then he saw an RV online offered by a dealership in Texas.

“It had the layout I wanted, called them up, they said they had it, and I’m thinking this is it, this is the one,” Steel said.

He had a deal by mid-January. The first buyer’s order included nearly $9,000 to install a solar kit, bringing the total cost to $74,550. Steel sent a $5,000 deposit, and a $70,000 loan from a credit union was used to pay the balance.

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Steel said he couldn’t believe what he heard when he called to pick up the RV. “I almost had a heart attack.”

According to Steel, Performance Motorcoaches RV and Marine in Wolfforth Texas demanded another $8,000 for the solar installation.

Steel claims he never saw the new buyer’s order with the increased price until the dealer was ready to release his RV after a 3-month delay.

“Way more than I expected or agreed upon,” Steel said.

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He said he cancelled his order and asked for refunds of his deposit and loan, but said Performance Motorcoaches refused and is keeping the RV.

Steel said he was told that if he wanted the solar system removed, he would lose even more money.

“You know they tried to threaten me saying, ‘We have to uninstall what we installed, and it will cost $15,000 for a new roof,’” Steel said.

Steel contacted Palm Bay Police and filed a complaint claiming he was a fraud or theft victim, but investigators told him it was a civil case.

He sent a complaint to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles disputing the full refund denial. Ulrich contacted the agency and was told it is an open case.

Consumer experts with the Better Business Bureau stress consumers need final buyer’s orders signed by both parties for any online vehicle deals.

“If a dealership asks you to complete all documents, complete payment in full, all of those things before the vehicle is shipped or even arrives to you, that would be problematic for most consumers,” BBB President Holly Salmons said.

Ulrich contacted the manager at Performance Motorcoaches who claimed Steel kept making order changes that drove up the price. The manager also said Steel agreed to the changes in email communications, but the dealership did not release those to Action 9. Performance Motorcoaches told Ulrich they are fully cooperating with state regulators.

“Please refund my money,” Steel said that is all he wants.

RV sales are regulated by the department of motor vehicles. In Florida, consumers can file complaints against vehicle dealers by clicking on the following link: https://www.flhsmv.gov/pdf/forms/84901.pdf

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.