It's a great reminder in this age of spiraling inflation that it's more important than ever to troubleshoot errors in everything from a CARFAX to your credit report that could cost you big bucks.
"We were working on our deal, and then the manager came out and said, 'Are you aware that your car was totaled?'" Yvonne McMahon said. "And I was like, 'What are you talking about?'"
McMahon went to sell her Toyota 4Runner and was offered $15,000 for the 12-year-old car, until a "total loss vehicle" showed up on her history report.
"He goes, 'Yeah, in 2012, your car was reported as totaled,'" she said.
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A decade ago, the car was hit on the way to Sesame Place with the kids, but it was a minor fender bender, not totaled, and it didn't even go through McMahon's insurance but may have gone through the other driver's insurance.
"I was like, 'That's not correct,'" she said. "He's like, 'Well, that's going to cause you a problem.'"
That problem sent the price plummeting from $15,000 to just $10,000 for the SUV.
With two kids to raise and the price of everything going up, it was a loss McMahon wasn't willing to take.
She immediately tried to contact CARFAX to correct the report.
"They can't tell me who it is," she said. "All they can tell me is that it's not my insurance company."
It takes a lot of work to fix errors on car and credit history. You must dispute each one, in writing, with the company reporting.
When it comes to credit scores, the difference of a few points could mean a higher interest credit card or loan rate. And a mistake like a total loss declared on your vehicle could cut the price almost in half.
"Mistakes don't happen often, but when they do, we want to make the report better, right, and we don't want to have errors," CARFAX spokesperson Emilie Voss said.
Voss said CARFAX gets reports from about 131,000 sources and upload on average about 5 million records a day, sometimes getting multiple reports on a single event.
CARFAX says each case is different, so it assists each consumer to help resolve their individual issue the best they can. In this case, McMahon was instructed to check three sources for proof.
1) Your Car Insurance
2) Damage Repair Invoice or Receipt
3) Police Report
"Often times on a police report, it says the other insurance companies involved outside of yours," Voss said.
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CARFAX double-checked and saw the incident was only bumper damage.
"There was not a total loss on the vehicle, as was originally reported," Voss said. "So we removed the total loss from the vehicle history report."
Getting that removed added $7,000 to the car's worth.
"We were able to put more money down on a new car," McMahon said. "Oh my God, you guys are amazing. Than you so much, 7 On Your Side. Without you guys, I don't know what I would do."
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