Rhoda Branche’s rocky road began with Superstorm Sandy in 2012. After the hurricane totaled her car, she turned to Giuffre Motors in Brooklyn to shop for a new vehicle.
“They said they would help me,” recalled Rhoda. “They were very friendly – and then they just starting pushing the papers through.”
She said the dealership promised her $4,000 in incentives to buy a used 2004 Volvo SUV – and offered to arrange a loan for her.
According to a copy of the contract obtained by MagnifyMoney, the incentives were missing from the sales contract Rhoda signed. The financing was no bargain either – a subprime loan with an annual interest rate of 23.5%. Subprime customers are typically high-risk borrowers who pay more in finance charges because of poor credit histories.
Worst of all, Rhoda’s $13,000 SUV would soon stop running. Instead of repairs, the dealership gave her the runaround.
“It was a vehicle that shouldn’t be on the road,” Rhoda said. “They just said the vehicle was fine. It looks good on the outside, but it was a lemon.”
In desperation, she took the Volvo to other mechanics and spent $3,000 from her own pocket, but the SUV kept breaking down. As a last straw, she surrendered the title of ownership to the finance company that held her loan.
Without a car, it often takes Rhoda two buses, a subway ride, and 90 minutes to travel nine miles from her apartment in Coney Island, N.Y., to a hospital where she frequently seeks treatment.
“I have to take public transportation,” said Rhoda, who suffers from injuries that required operations on both knees. “It is very time-consuming. It causes a lot of pain. I have pains all over my body because I had surgery.”