In Your Corner: Buying A Car Report Isn't Enough

By Ryan Elijah

June 18, 2010 Updated Jul 17, 2009 at 7:41 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana'sNewscenter)--
Two different consumers have approached us in the past several weeks saying they bought a Carfax with detailed information about a car they were purchasing. Both were surprised to find out, after the purchase, that the car was listed on another car report. AutoCheck, with "frame damage", usually indicating an accident of some type.
We took one of the cars to be inspected to Kelley Chevrolet's body shop, and they determined that the car had damage to the engine cradle, while not a pressing safety issue, the repair would cost nearly two-thousand dollars.
The problem with your car being tagged with body damage is that it basically follows the car forever, even if the vehicle is fixed, it will show up as "previous body damage" on the report
Nathan Nix/Kelley Chevrolet- the paper trail is the killer for the customer, the car is branded, if you Will, and they need some documentation to show that it's been taken care of"
The answer to how this happened is on Carfax's website, They indicate their reports only contain information supplied to Carfax and not a complete history. Eric Autenrieth, is the General Manager at Indiana Auto Auction, he sees thousands of vehicles come through his auction each month, but unlike consumers and most dealers, they don't use Carfax
"Carfax has done a great job on the retail side, but AutoCheck is huge in the auction industry. If the vehicle didn't make it through the wholesale auction, it might not be announced."
AutoCheck's main advantage is they get information from auto auctions, where many cars on dealer's lots come from. Both cars we investigated were purchased by the dealer at auction, which is why AutoCheck listed the frame damage and Carfax did not, but why wasn't that information passed onto the buyer. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller told us consumers face an uphill battle when trying to prove a dealer sold them a car without announcing damage
Greg Zoeller "you'll have to show actual knowledge on the part of the dealer, so even if you buy from an individual and they know of damage and fail to report that, you would almost have to prove prior knowledge to go after them"
Auto complaints are the most popular complaint in Zoeller's office, he says if you're buying a car "as is", the key is getting your own inspection. That's the same message we got from Carfax, they told us they use over 22-thousand sources to get car information, and if a consumer uses their service and gets an inspection, 99 percent of the time, there are no surprises with the car. Both of our dealers are relatively small, they told us they bought a Carfax on the cars they sold and didn't know of any damage when they sold the car. They have both agreed to fix the damage.

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