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3-On Your Side: Used Car Buyers — Beware

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Used Cars
jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Buying a used car could mean buying someone else’s problems. That’s why it’s important to check out a car’s history. But even a car with a great report card, could still have a hidden history.

“When I saw the CARFAX everything looked fine,” said Angielen Pina.

But Pina learned the hard way, that a clean CARFAX doesn’t necessarily mean your car is accident free.

Her certified used car had a clean DMV report and passed the dealer’s 160 point inspection.

But she received some disappointing news from a third party mechanic after she bought it the car.

“They told me this was replaced right here, and also this was replaced because it doesn’t have a sticker,” said Pina.

In all, four major parts had been replaced, evidence of a major front end collision.

Yet there is no evidence of any accidents on the CARFAX report or a report from it’s competitor, Auto Check.

Rosemary Shahan, with Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, is not surprised.

“Very often cars that have been damaged don’t show up in CARFAX or Auto Check,” said Shahan.

She says that’s partially due to the way they gather information from their various sources like police reports and state databases.

“It’s not required that the state give them the data in a timely way,” said Shahan.

So, CARFAX may not know your car was in an accident until after you’ve purchased it.

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CARFAX says they use, “more than 34,000 sources to report vehicle history information”.

But they still recommend you, “have the car inspected by an independent mechanic or body shop prior to purchase.”

Thanks to federal law, they will likely know if your car is a lemon, a salvage, or has been in a flood.

But there’s nothing they can do if the previous owner, or the insurance company doesn’t report the accident.

And that’s likely what happened in Angielen’s case.

It’s still not clear how the dealer’s 160-point inspection missed all the replaced parts on this certified used car. All the more reason to get a independent inspection before you buy.

But keep in mind, insurance companies are only required by federal law to report cars that have been totaled.

Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS 3

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