Team 10 Troubleshooter helps consumers uncover wrecks in cars' histories

SAN DIEGO - A Team 10 consumer report is alerting buyers on how to find cars with wrecks in their past. To demonstrate how used car shoppers cannot easily pick out a previously wrecked car, Team 10 staged a demonstration.

Becky Warren with the Car Safety First Coalition lined up three identical Ford Rangers at Liberty Station. Consumers in the area were asked to pick out which vehicle had a wreck in its past.

"I think a lot of times you are looking at a car and you are picking by the paint color -- you can't tell," Warren said. "Buying a car can be a big overwhelming decision so you want to make sure you have all the facts."

Those facts can be found through a vehicle history report, and consumers have several options for finding the information in three reports -- which all cost different amounts.

The first report uses information from the federal government's National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, or NMVTIS. Junked or salvaged cars can be found on the basic reports using government information. Consumer advocates told Team 10 if a car is on that list, consumers should not buy it. That report costs between $2 and $12.

More detailed reports are available from companies like Carfax and Autocheck.

Autocheck lists the number of accidents and lets you run unlimited vehicle identification numbers, or VINs. Autocheck's report costs $29.99.

The report by Carfax includes accident reports, the number of owners, service records and recall information. It costs $39.99.

Without seeing any of those reports, five out of the six people who took Team 10's 'Used Car Challenge' did not pick the truck with a wreck in its past.

"I don't know what I'm looking for," said Bob Atkinson. "Just things out of place. Things that don't look right."

Other consumers also admitted they did not know what to look for, while others looked over every inch.

"Sometimes you learn the hard way until you really look," said Julio Torres.

Only Torres chose the correct truck - the white one. (Watch the video to the left.)

Most used car shoppers don't realize some dealerships will pay for the reports and give them to consumers.

Mark Wheeler, owner of Encinitas Ford, uses Carfax. Wheeler said he gives a Carfax report to every customer who buys a used car.

"We use it so we can evaluate vehicles if they are coming in on trade or buying them through an auction process," said Wheeler.

Consumer advocates told Team 10 buyers should take the car to a mechanic so they can look at the repairs, and compare the repairs to the report. Wheeler and Warren both said this is best way to protect yourself before you buy a used car.

Consumer Links:

National Motor Vehicle Title Information System

Carfax

Autocheck

Find registered mechanic: 

Bureau of Automotive Repair

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