Used cars can hide dangerous accident histories - News, Weather & Sports

Used cars can hide dangerous accident histories

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - More than 30 million used cars were sold last year. But a WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Investigation uncovered: buyers don't always know what they're getting. Troubleshooter Eric Flack decided to put viewers to the test and find out how to avoid a costly mistake.

19-year-old Amber Keller is planning to buy her first car in the coming months. She's going to get something used to save money. And she has one fear about the big decision.

"That I won't have a car after about a month or so," Keller said.

Buying the wrong used car can cause all sorts of problems down the road.

"It's really difficult to pick out the signs of damage," said Chris Basso, public relations manager at Carfax, a company that provides vehicle histories for used cars nationwide.

The WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department teamed with Carfax and Mall St. Matthews to set up a used car challenge. We lined up three used cars in the Mall St. Matthews parking lot, an Infiniti, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. One of the three was involved in a wreck so severe both airbags deployed.

We asked 5 shoppers if they thought they could spot the damage.

"I think I can beat it," car lover Derek Silliman said of our used car test.

Walter Hayes agreed. "A lot of times you find signs of tell tale paint or primer," Hayes said circling our used cars.

But our used car challenge wasn't as easy as our volunteers thought. Most picked the Infiniti as the car they suspected of being involved in an accident.

"I just have a feeling," Adriana West said when asked why she chose the Infiniti.

Amber Keller thought she saw something a little more concrete. "There's a little scratch on the back," she said pointing to the bumper.

Silliman picked the Infiniti too. "It was the only one that had any little imperfection," he said.

As it turned out, the Mercedes-Benz was the car that was in the accident. Only one person, Carol Cameron, guessed that part right. However, Cameron had no idea what was really wrong.

"It seemed as if the dash was slanting down a little bit," Cameron said.

But the Mercedes was damaged in a rear passenger-side impact accident. Bad enough to throw the car permanently out of alignment. But the repair was so good even some experts might not see the warning signs.

"An average person would miss that," said Cary Donovan, vice-president and director of used vehicle operations for Sam Swope Auto Group in Louisville.

"A lot of car dealers would miss that," Donovan added.

So why does that matter? Basso said if you buy a car that's been in a wreck and it hasn't been properly repaired, you or your family could be at risk.

"The consequences could be that the car is not going to protect you in a subsequent accident," Basso said, adding the vehicle "could be a ticking time bomb."

The only way to diffuse a situation like that is a vehicle history report which includes important information about a used car's past including accident records. Many used car dealers will provide a vehicle history report at no charge. If you're buying a used car from a private seller you can also buy a vehicle history report online for $30-$35, and catch what the naked eye, doesn't.

Kentucky and Indiana do not have lemon laws that cover used cars. However, there are several other types of laws that can be used to help you in the event you discover that you've bought a used car lemon.

First, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has what's called the Used Car Rule that requires dealers to provide consumers with a Buyer's Guide, with warranty and other types of information. If the dealer has in any way failed to abide by the FTC Used Car Rule, you may have the basis for a legal claim.

Second, each state has what are called Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices (UDAP) laws. If the dealer has, for example, made verbal promises or didn't tell you about issues relating to your used car, you may have a cause of action.

Finally, the Truth in Lending Act and the Federal Odometer Act might also be valuable in obtaining lemon justice if a dealer is found to have violated those requirements.

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