Omega Motors in Conroe sells rebuilt salvage cars

This is not made clear on their website. What you see on www.omegamotorshouston.com is low mileage, late model cars selling for below market prices.

The purpose of this post is not to give advice on whether or not to buy a repaired salvage car. You will still have to decide for yourself. Depending on your tolerance for car hassles, it may be possible to buy a repaired salvage vehicle and be happy with your purchase. However, please read my story and, most importantly, make note of the dealer's behavior when confronted with the truth regarding the check engine light that had been tampered with (next to last paragraph). I simply wanted to share my experience since I found almost nothing on Omega Motors through my Internet searches except one person who bought a Scion and had a good experience.

My son "B.E", a recent graduate of Texas A & M, was looking for a car when he spotted one on the Omega website that interested him. It was a 2007 Subaru Impreza 2.5i with 17K miles for $9000. B.E. called Omega about the car. Billy, who answered the phone, said the car had indeed been hit from behind but had been repaired. Upon my suggestion, B.E. asked Billy if the car had a salvage title and the answer was "no". (More on this later!)

B.E. made a trip by himself down to Conroe to look at the Subaru. B.E. took his camera and took pictures of things on the rear underside of the car that looked suspect. There was a Nissan muffler with some shoddy workmanship and also some sort of box with wires and hoses connected to it that has been zip-tied into position. B.E. then drove the car and went into the office to talk to Billy.

I suggested asking to see the title, and take a picture of it. According to B.E., Billy started to retrieve the title, noticed the camera, and said that "reproductions" of titles are not allowed. Billy instead produced a regular blue Texas title and said "This is what your title will look like" and pointed out the words "repaired salvage" in the remarks section.

B.E. called me and told me what was going on. Billy's response about taking a picture of the title made me suspicious. I suspected this was bogus because we had just emailed a scanned-in copy of a vehicle title to a major insurance company, at their request (B.E.'s old vehicle was totalled by another driver.) My highly sensitive rip-off radar was beginning to give early warning signals! I told B.E. to put his camera away, go back in and ask just to see the original title. Billy produced it this time. It was a Colorado salvage title showing an auction company as the owner. Recall my initial contact with Omega as to whether or not the car had a salvage title? I noticed more blips on my radar.

B.E. returns home and we print out the pictures of the suspect areas on the car. B.E. then takes the pictures to a local muffler shop and Subaru dealer. The muffler shop agreed the muffler work looked shoddy but would probably be OK. They printed an estimate for a replacement muffler if we wanted to get it all redone correctly. They also identified the mysterious box as a component of the car's emissions equipment: the "evaporative canister". They also asked if the car's "check engine" light was on. B.E. said he did not think so. (More on this later!) Our local Subaru dealer confirmed the information on the evaporative canister and said it appeared all it needed were $75 in brackets and hardware to get it correctly installed.

At this point we are thinking we are on to a great deal on a late model Subaru that can be easily fixed correctly. So we start making plans to return to Conroe so that I can check out the car one last time, and possibly buy it. We also start to solidify plan "B": a low-mileage Mazda at Emmons Motors in Pasadena, (South Houston).

On the big day, we plan to drive first to Emmons, test drive the Mazda, and then back to Omega to check out the Subaru. Justin, the sales person at Emmons, allowed us to drive the Mazda without him coming along, and provided us a complete written bill of sale so we would have an "out the door" price. Justin asked where we were going to look at the other car. He had never heard of Omega Motors but said there was another dealer in Friendswood that sells rebuilt salvage cars. Justin advised heavily against us buying a salvage car. We had heard all of his arguments: you can't get financing (we were paying cash) and insurance companies won't write full coverage on the car.

The insurance issue was worth checking into so I called my wonderful independent agent, First Texas, in Arlington. She could not get coverage with my current carrier but could get full coverage with Progressive. Even then, she warned, a total loss claim might be settled at a depreciation of up to 50%. Undeterred, we headed north through Houston to see the Subaru.

Upon arriving at Omega Motors we found the Subaru unlocked so we proceeded to look the car over. I spent most of my time underneath the car looking at the evaporative canister. I noticed one of the big hoses coming out of the canister was crimped and tied off and the wiring was hanging loose and had been spliced with black tape. I also noticed the replacement muffler (a salvage muffler) had been welded to the mid pipe, meaning that replacing the muffler would be more expensive than originally thought.

Finishing up our inspection, we proceeded to the sales office to get the keys for a test drive. The air conditioned reception room and bathroom to the office was unlocked, but Billy's office door was locked. Outside the work shop door was wide open and doors to the few cars I checked were unlocked. B.E. phoned Billy, who answered (apparently on a cell phone), said he was away and would be back to the lot in about ten minutes. Standing there in the air conditioned room I thought to myself: "what kind of person leaves their whole used car lot, work shop, and all their cars unlocked while going to lunch?"

We go back out for another look at the Subaru and Billy drives up in a Dodge Viper with a young woman in the car. Billy gets us the keys and we head out for a test drive. Noticing the tank on empty, we head for the nearest gas station for a few bucks of gas. Right away, Iím having trouble getting gas into the car. The gas pump nozzle keeps shutting off like the tank is full. I manage to nurse a few gallons of gas into the car while wondering about the pinched off hose on the evaporative canister.

Leaving the gas station I ask B.E. to kill the engine and put the key into ignition position so that all the dash warning lights would be showing themselves in self-check mode. I asked him if he could see the "check engine" light. Answer: "No". My rip-off radar was now on full alert!

Determined to get to the truth, we head straight for the Subaru dealership in The Woodlands. On the highway, B.E. could not get the cruise control to work. The cruise indicator light was flashing green at all times. I was thinking "the hits just keep coming!" At the dealership I asked to have the car's computer read to see if any "codes were thrown" that would be causing a check engine light to be on. B.E. mentioned the cruise malfunction. She said that is almost a dead give away because the cruise control will be de-activated by the system if the check engine light is on. The service writer said they could read the codes while we wait but there was a charge of $116 to do so. I knew most major auto parts store will do this service for free. The service writer was nice enough to direct us to a nearby Advanced Auto Parts store. We went there, and sure enough, the helpful store clerk found two codes in the car's computer: the Evap. Canister, and an electrical system short.

That was it. I hit the "launch all weapons" button to nuke this deal! Someone had done shoddy repair work to this car's emissions system, could not get it working, and disabled the check engine light so unsuspecting buyers would not notice the trouble. I told B.E. that if we could have bought the car for $2K less, it might have been worth a long shot. But we already knew Billy's price was firm. I could not wait to get this car back to Omega and I was praying out loud for mercy from any police that might notice we were driving a car with no license plates or dealer tags.

If you are doing research on Omega Motors, here is the part you need to know. Billy was out on the lot saying goodbye to another customer. He asked B.E. how the test drive went. B.E. told him about the check engine light and the codes discovered and that we would not be buying the car. Billy asked, "So you went and had this car checked?" I was thinking to myself that Billy was about to say, "Hey, I have all the test equipment here in my shop. You shouldn't have gone to all that trouble." No, that's NOT what Billy was about to say. Billy looked at B.E. and said, "I told you not to go get the car checked. I told you could take the car for a good test drive...but did I not tell you that having the car checked was strictly forbidden?" I looked at B.E. who had a confused look on his face like he was trying to remember a conversation. Later B.E. said he never heard Billy say anything about forbidding getting the car checked. I am standing there wondering what planet we were now on. Billy now goes into an outright tirade: "Do you know what you have done is illegal? What you have done is highly illegal."" Then for his grand finale: "Get out of my dealership before I call the police and have you both arrested."

By now I wanted to laugh out loud but realize I am within arm's reach of a much larger dude of highly questionable character. It's a "pivotal moment" for me. My urge to return fire is growing but the urge to get my son, me, and my car off this guy's property as quickly as possible wins out. We still have a car to buy and need to get home safely. So we simply turned around and left without a further word. Obviously, what Billy was saying about the illegality of getting a used car check out, is a huge pile of smoldering B.S. Every auto buying guide published since the invention of Gutenberg's press has absolutely recommended having a used car checked as thoroughly as possible before purchase. I've never seen so much as a hint that this is possibly illegal anywhere in the country. Iím sure the ONLY potentially illegal activity was taking place on the selling side of this aborted transaction. In fact, the service writer at Subaru said a car cannot be sold by a dealer in Texas with a check engine light warning

Emmons Motor Company in Pasadena, Tx

All things considered, the car probably could be fully repaired. For the right price, it may have been worth it. But for the same money, B.E. bought an EXCELLENT low mileage Mazda that needs NOTHING from Justin and the great folks at Emmons Motor Co. in Pasadena, TX. We called ahead (as we were driving out of Omega's lot) and they had all the paperwork ready when we got there. We just signed, paid, and drove off! If you visit Pasadena, you cannot miss the best fajitas and margaritas at The Donkey! Ask anyone at Emmons for directions. Everyone loves The Donkey!

Caveat Emptor!