CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A series of complaints filed with the North Carolina Attorney General claim CARFAX, the company that provides vehicle history reports for customers buying used cars, gave them reports with incomplete information.
Both the complaints and three customers interviewed by WBTV show a string of people who purchased used cars with a CARFAX report that said their vehicles hadn’t been in an accident. All three people learned after the fact, though, their newly-purchased vehicles had been in an accident.
That’s exactly what Eric Lindsay was worried about when he was shopping for a used car. He recorded himself asking questions to the salesman to make sure the vehicle he was buying didn’t have any prior damage.
He got the guarantee he was looking for, both from the dealership and a CARFAX vehicle history report.
“It was a clean CARFAX and it’s a clean title,” Lindsay said.
He paid more than $12,000 for the 2008 Infiniti G37. It looks sleek and draws attention while driving down the street. But what Lindsay didn’t know was that beneath the smooth exterior, the car was hiding secrets.
Lindsay was rear-ended and he says he called his insurance provider to get a new valuation on his car.
“They told me ‘Mr. Lindsay you can’t get a diminished value claim because this car has five previous damage done to it.’ And I was surprised,” Lindsay told WBTV.
Lindsay decided to run another CARFAX report and this new one showed something completely different than what he was given the first time.
Lindsay bought the car in February 2018. By April 4, 2018 CARFAX was reporting that there was in fact damage done to the vehicle during an incident in 2017.
“These dealerships are out here showing the CARFAX on these vehicles and it’s not the right information,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay filed a complaint against CARFAX with the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office. Through a public records request, WBTV found three other similar complaints against CARFAX.
Rebecca Wallace bought a 2009 Mercedes-Benz in 2016. Before she bought the car, her insurance company provided her with a CARFAX vehicle history report that showed “no accident/damage reported to CARFAX.”
Wallace had a minor accident in the car in 2017 which caused the airbags to deploy. Curious as to why that would happen, she reached out to her insurance company to get a valuation report of the vehicle. This report showed that the car had been in a severe crash in 2015.
“We had no idea,” Wallace said. “We never, ever would have bought a used vehicle that had been in an accident.”
Wallace received a copy of the previous title showing that the car was transferred in September 2015 by Bhavin Patel. On the title forms Patel marked that the vehicle had not been involved in a collision where the repair costs exceeded 25 percent of the cost of the car. WBTV reached out to Patel over the phone and asked if he had been disingenuous on the title forms. He said that he was unaware of any crashes in the car and that his father-in-law had owned the car before him.
Wallace went to CARFAX asking for a refund on the vehicle but they denied her. In response to her complaint to the Attorney General’s Office a CARFAX employee wrote “CARFAX only offers compensation for missing branded title events.”
Branded title events are typically handled by state agencies, according to CARFAX website and include titles branded as lemons, salvaged, odometer rollbacks and other types.
But because Wallace’s vehicle did not meet these qualifications, she was unable to get a refund.
“It’s the opposite of what their ads proclaim, and I believe that’s misleading people,” Wallace said.
WBTV reached out to CARFAX asking why they had incomplete information on three separate cars. On two of those vehicles CARFAX reported damage on the vehicle shortly after the customers bought the cars.
In response a spokesperson for CARFAX pointed out that they receive data from over 112,000 sources but that won’t cover every incident.
“Once a new source does provide their data, it may be for an event that occurred in the past. On all three vehicles you sent over, CARFAX received a damage record after the event and we noted the addition of the record with the date it was added to the Vehicle History Report.”
CARFAX also noted that customers should take a used vehicle to get inspected before purchasing it.
But, the customers and auto experts WBTV spoke with said that CARFAX is an important sales tool used to give assurance about the vehicle.
“They should be held responsible,” Wallace said.
“They’re making a lot of money off of people and they don’t stand by their work.”