Used Car Turns Out To Be Rebuilt Wreck

Used Car Turns Out To Be Rebuilt Wreck

By Jennifer Kraus. CREATED Jul 18, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When money is tight and you need a new car, it might seem like a used car would be your best bet.

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates has found that great deal may not be as good as the dealer wants you to think it is.

We get many calls from people who buy used cars and then discover they've bought a rebuilt wreck or simply a car with a lot of problems. But there is a simple way to avoid this that so many people forget or just don't know to do. 

Eighteen-year-old Delyar Abed recently bought a 2007 Toyota Camry after moving to Nashville to go to college.

"I thought this a good car," he told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

"It's my first time buying a car here in the United States," the recent immigrant from Syria added. 

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered things about Abed's car that he was shocked to hear, things he says he wished he'd known before buying it. 

When he bought the Camry at a used car lot, U.S. Auto of Nashville off Murfreesboro Road, he says he was told the car had been in an accident, but Abed maintains he was told it was a minor fender bender.  

Abed recalled, "He (U.S. Auto of Nashville employee) said, 'It's just frame accident. Frame damage.'"

"Was it a big accident?" we asked.

Abed answered, "No. He say, 'No, it's not a big accident.' They just say, 'It's a very simple accident.' It's like, 'We fix it and you can drive it. It's very good car.'"

But according to Carfax, Abed's car was totaled in a wreck sometime late last year. There was severe damage reported -- and at least one of the airbags deployed.

We were able to find pictures of the car after the accident and found it had been hit pretty hard on the back as well as both sides.

And it didn't get any better when we took the car to Beaman Toyota and had their master diagnostic technician Tim Rains check it out.

Rains said afterwards, "The vehicle we inspected today failed my inspection as a safe vehicle."

He could tell almost immediately this car had been rebuilt. 

"We call 'em chop cars. You know, take three cars, make one," Rains explained.

His biggest concern was with the airbags. The one under the steering wheel was missing its cover so if it deployed, the force would be much stronger since it wouldn't have the cover to slow it down.

 As Rains held it and examined it, he said, "This one's been around the block a few times by the way the metal's all bent around."

It also had rust on it. And Rains said, without question, it had come out of another car as had the passenger side airbag which was missing two of the four bolts used to hold it in place, meaning it too might not work as it should in an accident.

"Is this the kind of airbag that you'd want in your car?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Rains.

"Not in my car and not in anybody's car that I work on," he replied.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Abed about the problems with the airbags.

"Is that something you would have wanted to have known (before you bought the car)?"

"Yeah," he said emphatically. "They have to tell me. I need (to know) everything about the car because I'm buying it."

So we went to U.S. Auto of Nashville where we could see wrecked cars being pieced back together and tried to ask about Abed's car.

We asked the man who identified himself simply as "Max" and who stated that he ran the place, "You sold a car to a young man last week, a 2007 Toyota Camry. Can I ask you about what you knew about that car?"

Max responded, "Ma'am, if you not get outside from the lot right now, I call the police and he make trespassing for you."

He made it clear he did not want to talk with us about Abed's car. 

"You need get out -- get out!"

But auto safety watchdogs say you can avoid winding up with a car like Abed's.

Clarence Ditlow with the Center for Auto Safety in Washington D.C. says it's important to know what you're getting before you buy it. 

"The last thing you want is a used wreck because it may not have been repaired correctly," Ditlow explained.

"If you're buying a used car, if you're not buying it from the prior owner, ask to have it inspected by a reliable garage to see if there is major damage to the car," he added.   

And Beaman's Tim Rains agreed.

He said even if the used car dealer insists they've inspected it, you want a second opinion, preferably from a dealer or someone else who works on that type of car day in and day out. An inspection like this will likely cost you between $75-$100.

"It's money well-spent as opposed to buying something that's going to cost you a fortune down the road or is just not a safe vehicle," Rains said.

That's something Delyar Abed wishes he'd known and done before now.

"I don't think like I'm safe in this car. I'm just driving very slow," he described with regret. 

We're not saying that all used or even all rebuilt cars are bad.

But you really need to know what you're getting before you buy one. Tim Rains at Beaman said that more than half of the used cars that people bring in for inspections either are unsafe to drive or need significant repair work.

So what if you buy one of these cars and then discover it's got problems?

People often then discover the place they bought it from won't take it back or even fix it and they'll say what about the Lemon Law?

There is no Lemon Law when it comes to used cars. Generally, what you buy is what you get -- and that's again why it's so important to spend a few dollars for an inspection first by someone other than the used car dealer.

Back to NC5 Investigates: Consumer Alert
NewsChannel 5 Investigates

Jennifer Kraus

Jennifer Kraus

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Jennifer Kraus is NewsChannel 5's Weekend Morning Anchor and a member of NewsChannel 5's award-winning Investigative Team.