If you are buying a used car, hopefully you know to always "check the Carfax," as they say.
It will tell you if a car was wrecked, flooded, or declared a salvage. If you see that a car has a salvage title, most of us would never consider it, as it typically means the car was totaled in an accident or flooded.
But as one man learned, if that Carfax report has the two words "recycling facility," you may want to run away from that deal, fast, unless you know exactly what you are getting into.
Great car, clean title
Cody Murrell thought he had found a great deal on an accident free, gently used Subaru WRX, until he says "during the first big rainstorm, I had about three quarters of an inch of water on the floor."
So he brought it to a repair shop, where he got some bad news.
"I thought the windshield was leaking at first." he said. "But it turned out the leak was from the firewall, behind the motor." The shop told him the car had been in a wreck, and poorly repaired.
So Murrell ordered a Carfax report, which stated "accident reported. Vehicle involved in a rear end collision."
But Murrell claims the dealer had sold the car as clean, and accident free, which is why he never even asked to see the Carfax.
One of the main purposes of a Carfax report is to show you if a car you are buying was even in an accident, and possibly has a salvaged title (which will significantly lower its value, to say nothing of driving and safety issues that may crop up).
One issue is some cars are repaired and put up for sale so fast, they can beat Carfax to the update, as it typically takes about 90 days for an accident to show up in state records. So even a car with a clean Carfax can sometimes end up showing an accident history 6 months later.
But a bigger issue in this case: no one, not even the dealer, caught this line on the Carfax report : "vehicle at automotive recycler facility, vehicle was sold as a whole unit."
What recycling facility really means
That strangely-worded line, that is easy to miss, means that it went through an auto recycling center, where totaled vehicles are towed to.
In some states -- including Ohio -- any car sold by a recycler now has to be branded "salvage." But it can take months, possibly a year or more, for all that be entered into the state motor vehicle records
That made Murrell's great deal a horrible deal, as his WRX was now worth thousands less than he paid for it.
"With a salvage title, it never would have gone anywhere near that price range," he said.
Carfax spokesman Chris Basso tells me Murrells' Carfax report was 100% accurate, but at the time the car was not listed as a "salvage," and still had a clean title. So Carfax was not at fault.
The dealer, meantime, tells us they were unaware of any problems as well, as the car had clean title at the time of the sale. But they ultimately agreed to get Murrell into a new Subaru at a discounted price, and buy back his damaged one.
Bottom line: Check the Carfax report before you buy, and be especially wary of any car sold by a recycling facility at some point in its life.
That could mean the title will soon become an almost worthless salvage title vehicle, after you buy it of course.
That way you don't waste your money.
"Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese)
For more consumer news and money saving advice, go to www.dontwasteyourmoney.com
Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org