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I-Team Exposes Major Flaw With Some Used Car Reports

By Karen Anderson, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – Used cars can be an affordable option for those who are trying to get the most car for their money. But the I-Team has discovered a service many depend on to help make sure they are getting a good car many not be as reliable as they thought.

Paul Maziarz says he found this out the hard way. Earlier this year he decided he needed a practical car for his family and that would mean parting with the dream car he bought used just a few months earlier, a loaded BMW. When he started talking trade-in, he got some bad news. “My car had frame and body damage,” he said.

Paul was shocked. He claimed the dealership, Autobahn of Westborough, never told him the car had frame damage. He says they even printed up a Carfax vehicle history report that said the car had no accidents, no structural damage. He later found out another company, Autocheck, did have a report of frame damage. “Makes me feel like I got ripped off for $45,000,” he said.

The I-Team researched dozens of cars on that dealer’s lot. We found several with conflicting reports. The Carfax was clean, but the Autocheck report had frame damage.

We also sent a producer in with an undercover camera to look at a car Autocheck reported with a damaged frame. The sales person told her the car had no damage and presented only the clean Carfax report.

Carfax stands by the information in their reports. In a statement, a spokesperson said: Carfax is constantly adding new sources of information to our database and we would be eager to include damage information from a reliable source.

The other issue is how dealerships use the reports. The owner of the dealer where Paul bought his car would not go on camera, but the owner told the I-Team they do disclose every report of damage once the sales manager gets involved.

That’s what happened to Paul. The dealer told him there was damage to the apron, but Paul had no idea that was part of the frame. “I would never buy a car with frame damage,” Paul said.

According to AAA’s car doctor, John Paul, a damage frame could mean trouble. “It may not be safe if you get into a crash,” he said.

Frank McGoldrick of Edmunds.com says consumers should never rely exclusively on vehicle history reports when deciding whether to buy a used car. He recommends buyers bring the car to a qualified mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection. If you don’t, you could be rolling the dice. “You could end up buying something that’s not at all what you thought it was,” he said.

The owner of Autobahn tells the I-Team he may consider making a change so that customers are informed of all damage reports right at the start of the sales process.

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