Highway Robbery

Beware of auto-transport companies that promise safe and timely delivery of your car

"It's a really shady business," says Catania, who claims her Honda arrived in San Diego two weeks after the company said it would. "I thought they were legit, but [after I filed my claim] I talked to the owner a lot. His name was Lloyd [Jackson]. He always blew me off. Every time I'd call him he would just say, 'We're investigating it.' This and that, like, 'We'll get back to you.' He never would. This went on for, like, months."

After six months of haggling, All Aboard finally agreed to pay Catania $412.19 -- nearly $200 less than her lowest repair estimate. Even then, Catania says, All Aboard took its time getting a check to her. "I kept waiting for the check to come in the mail," she says. "[Jackson] kept saying he needed to check with his accountant to see if they have the money. Then he told me that they don't have the money because their business isn't doing too well. I was like, 'I don't care -- find the money.'"

Catania finally received her first and only check from the company -- for $100 -- on June 10, 2004, almost a year after filing her original claim.

That's one better than Terrence Becker, who paid All Aboard $975 to ferry his 1998 Audi A4 from New Jersey to California in May 2003. "During shipping they had somehow dumped a bunch of oil or gasoline onto my car and into the air-conditioning intake system that made the whole car smell like gasoline," recalls Becker. He adds that his car also had multiple scratches.

Soon after receiving his damaged Audi, Becker filed a claim with All Aboard Auto Transport, asking its owners to reimburse him for $300 of an estimated $1,200 worth of damage. "There was a long process of me talking to a guy in the office named Lloyd who'd say, 'Yeah, we've received the forms but didn't get to look at it.' I would call back the next day: 'Oh, it's on the top of my list for today,'" recounts Becker. "It just went on for weeks and weeks of him saying he was going to look at it."

Ultimately the company denied Becker's appeal, arguing that "claims not noted on delivery will not be accepted," and the company "will not be responsible for... damage caused by leaking fluids."

Like most customers who live out of state, the amount of Becker's claim was outweighed by the costs of hiring an attorney or traveling to Missouri. Becker ate the loss, like many customers who've brought claims against the company. He says: "Sure, I could spend a couple hundred bucks to get a lawyer to write a letter, but who knows?"

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