Pay or Stay

By: KAKE News
By: KAKE News

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You get in your car, but it won't start. It might not be a mechanical problem. It could mean your car payment is overdue.

Macy Pearson loves the used car she just bought, but it will only start if she's made her car payment.

Nestled under her dash is a device called a Starter Interrupt System. If she doesn't pay, the device is set to disable her car so she can't drive. Macy's salesman insisted she have it, since she has no credit history.

Once Macy sends in her payment, she's given a code number. Then, she reaches for her remote and punches in the code.

At Family Motors in Wichita, customers come in once a week to pay in person. Someone from the dealership then swipes an electronic device underneath the dash. That sends a signal to the computer that the account is paid and the car stays on the road.

John Hattan at Family Motors says, "We deal with the credit challenged customer. And it gives them the opportunity because we as a lender feel a little more secure that were going to stay in touch with the customer."

It may be good for dealers, but what about drivers? One consumer advocate says the devices could put customers at risk.

Jack Gillis at the Consumer Federation of America says, "You might be in a situation where you are in an unsafe position, and you need to get out of there quickly, and you can't do it."

The makers of the device say cars won't stop while in motion. They just won't start once they're turned off. And even then, drivers like Macy can call their salesman for an emergency code.

But critics say customers don't always leave the car lot with a better price, or better financing if they have the device.

Gillis says, "The only one who seems to benefit, are the dealers who are selling these products."

As for Macy, she's grateful. She's working hard to get a solid credit history started.

Manufacturers say they can make similar devices for televisions, computers and virtually anything else that has an on-off switch, and needs to be paid for.

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