7 On Your Side: The one thing you must do before buying a used car

NEW YORK (WABC) -- "I'm feeling confused. I'm wondering what's going on with this car," said Beatriz Delossantos, who was told the used car she bought was a lemon.

"They said you need to go back to the dealership. He circled 'structural damage' and the 'potential odometer rollback' (on the CarFax)," she said.

She and her fiance were trying to sell her Honda Accord, bought just five months before when the vehicle history they checked done by Car Gurus was clean.

"No accidents. I saw the mileage was perfect for the year," said Beatriz.

But when she tried to sell it, two big red flags popped up on a different history by CarFax; an odometer rollback and an accident, bad enough to cause "structural damage."

"I don't even feel comfortable driving this car anymore," said Beatriz. "I don't know what's really wrong with it."

So which history report was right?

We asked licensed mechanic Audra Fordin, who runs a workshop called "Women Auto Know" out of the Great Bear Auto center she owns and operates in Flushing, Queens, to check out Beatriz's Honda.

"So what I'm looking for is where it looks like there was an accident, where metal was crushed," said Fordin. "I don't see anything."

Fordin says she only found evidence of a minor fender bender that hadn't been repaired.

"I don't see structural," said Fordin. "I don't see a structural repair."

How about the potential "odometer rollback?" On Christmas Eve of last year the Accord was recorded at 112,000 miles, but strangely rolls back to just 66,000 a month later. But our car expert found an explanation for the big mystery mileage gap.

"When you're checking the mileage you have an option for kilometer or miles," points out Fordin. "Someone may have put the conversion, (for kilometers, not miles), down in their documentation."

Next, we contacted Carfax. They quickly researched and changed the Honda's history, dropping the odometer rollback and including Audra's report on the car's condition.

"Now that I actually have proof that everything is okay with the car, I do feel better," said Beatriz.

The big takeaway before buying a used car is get a vehicle history report. A Carfax rep even concedes that its history reports are a great tool for consumers but it shouldn't be the only tool when buying a used car.

That's why you MUST get a reputable, licensed mechanic, like Audra Fordin, to check the used car out before buying. When it's checked out have the mechanic put it on the lift and check the undercarriage.

You may wind up paying $50 to 100 for it and the owner may have to be there, but it could save you from buying a lemon - a mistake that could cost you tens of thousands.


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