Carfax controversy

Seven On Your Side
December 7, 2010 1:15:55 PM PST
This story is for anyone in the market for a used car. A woman from our area bought a used car from a dealer, relying on assurances, in writing, in the form of Carfax, that her car had a clean past. But it turns out the car-fax information - wasn't for the car she bought. Every time she starts her car, Kathleen Timmins is angry. "I think we were mislead and cheated."

Last month she and her husband went shopping for a used Mini Cooper at Generation Kia in Medford, Long Island and were presented with a Carfax.

"The thing they handed us, they said was a real, clean Carfax. There's no negative information," remarked Kathleen.

So she bought it, paying more than $18,000. But a week later, a nagging doubt convinced her to run her own vehicle history report. That's when she found her Mini Cooper had a major secret, "I said to Sal (my husband) the car was in an accident."

That's right, according to her Carfax, Kathleen's sweet wheels had been in a crash, sustaining thousands in front end damage. " I read further and found it had 2 owners in 2 years."

What caused the mix-up? The vehicle identification number in the dealership's Carfax was off one digit. The problem was "there's a 4 and on the real one theres a U," explained the confounded car owner.

Armed with both documents, Kathleen went back to the dealership. "I said take the care back, he said, 'I can't do that.'"

When we called the dealership and asked for an explanation, Generation Kia's general manager gave none. Then, stopped taking our calls. So we visited with our camera.

There, we met Kathleen's salesman. We asked him to look at the competing Carfaxes.

Instead, the man asked us to leave. He wouldn't look at it but Carfax did, telling us the VIN number on the dealer's document was for a car that doesn't even exist.

But hours after we left the showroom good news. "You guys rock," said a very happy Kathleen Timmins.

The dealership said it was an honest mistake, took the car back back, and issued the owner a full refund.

Kathleen's lesson? "I learned three things. I do like Mini Coopers. You gotta use Carfax. And channel 7 is on your side.

The big hero here turned out to be the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association. We asked them to help. They were able to in touch with the dealership's owner. As a result, the matter was resolved in hours. The big takeaway, when you buy used, always have your car checked out by a licensed mechanic.

Story by: Nina Pineda

Produced by: Steve Livingstone CONNECT WITH NINA PINEDA AND 7 ON YOUR SIDE