Going car shopping can be a panic-inducing experience for some buyers. With a little bit of research, though, you can avoid the panic.
Ralph Jones bought a lemon.
He even bought an extended warranty, but the warranty didn't even cover half of the repairs.
“It's been in the shop three different times now,” Jones said. “It's just been problems since day one.”
Ralph took the salesman at his word and is paying for it now. That's why you've got to do your research.
We enlisted the help of CARFAX to show you just how hard it is to tell if you are buying damaged goods. We took three SUV’s: a Ford Escape, a BMW X3 and a Toyota Highlander. They're all 2005's and one of them has been in an accident.
“We've got three used cars here that are for sale,” said CARFAX Manager Christopher Basso. “They’re all part of the used car challenge that we are performing today. We want to see if consumers can pick out, out of the three vehicles which one has been wrecked and rebuilt.”
Chris Rolhfing was our first volunteer. Chris is an ASC certified mechanic. We thought he'd spot the damaged vehicle right away. He was thorough. He even used flashlight to inspect the paint under the hood.
“If I had to guess that's the one that's been fixed,” said Rolhfing, pointing to the BMW. “It looks like there's a very slight mismatch between the fender and this piece.”
Janice Tearman was next volunteer.
“No, I didn't notice anything unusual,” Tearman said. “They looked good to me.”
Janice was stumped.
Now, it’s Jason Hartman’s turn. He did a few double takes and then picked the Toyota SUV.
“The paint doesn't match,” Hartman said. “Looks like it’s not buffed in properly.”
Volunteer after volunteer had similar answers. So we called in an expert. Kyle Kreutzinger is the assistant general manager at Fritz in Fishers. He showed us what potential used car buyers should look for, the tell-tale signs that a vehicle has been in a wreck.
“I can see here towards the front that there's a little bit of extra spacing here,” said Kreutzinger as he looked at the Ford Escape.
He said you should look at the gap between the hood and the fender.
“Look at that and right away you can tell how much thinner that piece is compared to the other side. That sends off a little bit of a red flag in my mind,” said Kreutzinger, as he checked the gaps.
Consumer Alert: The used car challenge and CARFAX reports