Couple charged for extra car miles they didn't drive

When it comes to leasing a car, a little attention to detail early in the process can save you a lot of money and hassle when you return the vehicle years later. That's a lesson one couple almost learned the hard way. Kane In Your Corner says you can head off many problems simply by following two steps.

Alon and Sharon Levy were very happy with the deal they received on a 2011 Nissan Armada at Route 46 Nissan in Totowa. The lease was discounted because the vehicle already had 7,600 miles. It was a "demonstrator," driven by managers at the dealership, but still technically new under New Jersey law. The problems started when the Levys returned the vehicle 41 months later. Nissan's finance division in Texas told them they owed nearly $1,000 for excess mileage. The couple knew that wasn't true.

"Forty-one thousand was what we were allowed to drive, plus the 7,000 that we got the car with," Sharon Levy says. Fortunately, the Levys had saved their original odometer statement, which showed that the SUV had 7,600 miles at the time of the lease. But Nissan wouldn't budge. It produced a lease agreement, electronically signed by Sharon Levy, which stated that the car only had 10 miles.

The Better Business Bureau gives Route 46 Nissan its highest rating, A-Plus, noting its history of responding well to customer complaints, but the Levys say they were disappointed with the response they received when they asked the dealership to intervene in this case. A manager offered to split the excess mileage cost instead. The Levys rejected the proposal. 

The franchise owner, Frank Tackett, tells Kane In Your Corner that he wishes his manager had agreed to pay the full amount from the beginning, but also understands why he was initially reluctant. After all, the paperwork was contradictory, and after nearly four years, no one at the dealership had a clear memory of the original transaction.

Eventually, Route 46 Nissan deciphered what had gone wrong. Sharon Levy had originally signed an odometer statement showing 10 miles, just like the lease said, but it was deemed incorrect and replaced with a new one reflecting the accurate 7,600-mile figure. The Levys were right; there were no excess miles. Somehow, that correction had only been made on the odometer statement, not the lease agreement sent to Nissan. Since the mistake was clearly theirs, Route 46 Nissan cut a check to cover the full excess mileage charge, including tax.

Kane In Your Corner says the Levys' story illustrates two key points to remember when leasing a car. First, save all paperwork until the lease is up; the couple could only prove their case because they kept the odometer statement. Also, read all paperwork carefully before you sign. If there are numbers involved, make sure they match on each document. That's something the Levys could have done better, and if they had, they may have saved themselves several weeks of inconvenience.

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