Car history reports may not always be up to date

January 17, 2013 3:29:46 PM PST
All week long we've helped you get your old car spuced, but now we're helping you do your homework when it comes to buying a used car.

If you are in the market for a used car, chances are you going to get the car's history report. But there's a consumer warning that history report may not always reveal everything.

"I buy a lot of cars and for this to happen to someone like me who has as much experience as I do, it should be a cautionary tale to anyone," Paul Ivanovsky said.

Ivanovsky's story begins in 2010 at Gillman Acura used cars in north Houston. He purchased a 2008 Suburu Tribeca after he claims he was shown the car's history report.

"They showed me a Car Fax, it was clean so I was happy. It was a good deal, we decided to buy the car," he said.

Two years later, Ivanovsky decided to trade in the SUV for a new car. But this time the car's history report came back with a hit. Turns out the car was in an accident before Paul purchased it from Gillman.

"There were new welds in the frame of the car that the firewall had been broken," Ivanovsky said.

Ivanovsky says he explained the problem to Gillman.

"I didn't ask them to buy the car at the full price. I just asked them to give me the value of what I was told it was worth had it been what I thought I had bought," he said.

After we contacted Gillman, an agreement was made between the two parties. Chris Gillman with Gillman Acura did not want go on camera but he says since many car history reports rely on insurance company information, it's likely the updated facts were not put into the system until after Ivanovsky purchased the vehicle.

Alan Hall from Ron Carter Automotive Dealerships says it's something used car buyers have to keep in mind.

"The problem with Car Fax and other ones is they make clerical mistakes. You can buy a car that shows to be clean; six months from now, you go pull it again and guess what? It may show an accident," Hall said.

Something else, not every accident is reported to a car history report. That's because repair work can be done independently without involving insurance. So when you decide to buy a used car, get the car history report. Also...

"Take it to an independent inspector, nobody wants to buy a car only to find out it's been wrecked," Hall said.

Ivanovsky's story has a happy ending. Gillman offered him a fair price for the car despite the accident. Now that he is in the market for a new car, he can spot the red flags.

"If you feel bumps in the paint or if it's not completly straight, that's an indication that it is not manufacuter paint work," Ivanovsky said.

So the bottom line here, if you are going to buy a used car it's important to get a second opinion. Even the car history report companies suggest you take that extra step.
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