The Investigators

Oct 1, 2013 1:06 AM by Tom McNamara and Paul Birmingham

News 4 Tucson Investigators: Used Car Blues

There's perhaps no quicker and more painful way to lose your money than buying a lemon of a used car. But, how can you be sure the car you buy is as good on the road, as it looks on paper?

The News 4 Tucson Investigators see this sad story over and over again: used car buyers who end up with problems, after they drive off the lot.

And once again, a southern Arizona family learns it's buyer beware, and do your homework.

George Lopez of Douglas was looking for a car for his grandmother. The family settled on a 2005 KIA Sorrento. They bought the car from a used car dealer.

"As soon as she got the car after she bought it, that's when all the trouble started," Lopez says.

Leaking power steering fluid, problems with the air conditioner, and more.

"We would try to fix something, something else would break," Lopez says.

Turns out, according to an AutoCheck report, the car had frame damage, and AutoCheck notified would-be buyers, the dealers, when it was sold at auction. That's a fact the dealer never told the Lopez family.

"They never disclosed any of that," Lopez says.

But, that dealer tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, he wasn't told about the frame damage when he bought the car at auction.

And, in fact, a CARFAX vehicle history report that was provided to the Lopez family by that dealer didn't mention the frame damage. That's because it had never been reported to CARFAX.

"If had been on the CARFAX, then we would have said: no, we're going to go somewhere else," Lopez says.

CARFAX spokesman, Chris Basso, tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, getting a vehicle history report from a dealer should just be the first step when purchasing a used vehicle.

"Then, look at the information, take the next step. Take the car for a test drive, and make sure you're comfortable driving it. That you don't find anything wrong with it visually, or when you're driving it. And then, take it to a qualified mechanic, whose trained eye can spot some signs of hidden damage or something that may not have been reported to anybody, that could affect the safety or performance of that car," Basso says.

In another case brought to the News 4 Tucson Investigators this summer, another Douglas man also bought a vehicle with a seemingly clean CARFAX report.

In that case, it turns out the truck had been submerged, and had major rust issues. The truck ended up needing expensive repairs. Once again, the buyer ended up on the hook, and off the road.

The Arizona Attorney General's Office has a website with tips on how you can protect yourself when buying a used vehicle.

If you have something you'd like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to look into, email us at investigators@


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