Written by Dave McCracken Sunday, May 2, 2010 Share
Recently I was charged with the task of assisting my daughter purchase a used car. The first requirement would be any prospective vehicle would have to pass my stringent inspection process. Making the task even more daunting was the used car market had been stressed by the recent U.S. Government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program that was offered to help stimulate the automotive manufacturing industry.
With a select number of vehicle models to choose from and even fewer color choices the journey that sparked the topic of this article had begun. We visited numerous new and used car dealerships while at the same time spending countless hours perusing the various online auto sales websites. Fortunately, unlike the majority of people in this position, we also had access to a national auto auction network afforded me by a friend in the used car business. The entire process provided a wealth of information over the course of five weeks.
My daughter finally located a car that met her requirements at an upscale used car dealership in West Chester, PA. We searched all of the information available to us via the dealer’s website and the auction network where the car had also been listed for sale. The dealer offered free access to the CarFax report which clearly documented no accidents on record. However, while reading the vehicle description on the auto auction website I found the mention of possible uni-body or frame damage had been previously reported which raised major concern.
After contacting the dealer and learning that they weren’t willing to bring the car to my shop to perform a comprehensive inspection due to their implied insurance company’s distance limitations, we made arrangements to have access to their facilities. The following Saturday morning I packed my truck with thousands of dollars worth of inspection and diagnostic equipment to make the journey north.
Upon our arrival, the salesman brought the car around for us to drive. Rather than doing so, I opted to scan the computer system for any history of faults. None of the system monitors were set in a passing state indicating that any existing faults had recently been cleared. I then requested to check the car on a lift which we had previously arranged. My close inspection found there was evidence the car had been secured to a frame machine and that the car had been completely repainted. The ultimate deal breaker was the engine was full of sludge, clearly indicating poor servicing of the car.
Since the above enlightening experience, I performed a vehicle evaluation for one of our customers looking to purchase a quality used car. My findings were the car had been painted and there were other aspects that indicated there was more history to this car than what was openly being offered. Again, there was no mention of any accident or paint work on the CarFax report.
In summary, my intent in sharing these experiences is to illustrate that not all CarFax reports are 100% accurate. If the previous owner pays for repairs out of their own pocket rather than through an insurance company, that information may not show on a CarFax report. It also strongly reinforces the importance of having a trusted professional perform a thorough inspection of any used vehicle you are considering buying BEFORE you commit to finalizing the purchase.