Buying a used or pre-owned car can be great or miserable depending on how it turns out. You can be knowledgeable about mechanical issues, able to determine if a car has had body work by looking at it, use all precautions when purchasing and still get taken. Here is my story.
We have bought and sold many cars for pleasure and for profit. We knew how to determine if mechanical problems were major or minor, after all, one of us had previously owned a car repair shop and taught automotive classes. Reasonable body work can be found if you look hard enough. We researched our type of car and the price. We found exactly what we wanted online.
The car was a high-end, very desirable model a few years old. By all accounts it was in great shape, the owner showed us a copy of the title which was clear/unblemished. He communicated well and answered all our questions. The price of the car was reasonable for its age and style - definately not priced in a way to arouse suspicion.
We had never used that car reporting service you hear so much about but since we were spending a lot more money on the car than we usually did, we spent the money to get one. The report came back with no problems. It showed everything fine, no accidents or any problems of any kind. We bought the car and had it shipped across the country to our state.
We registered in our state. It ended up having a "branded" title. This means that the car was salvaged at some point in its life. Research revealed that the car had been reported stolen during a divorce in which one spouse "hid" it from the other. This resulted in a change in how it was titled and made the car worth less than what it should have been worth. From talking to the seller about it, he had no idea since his state handled things differently and he was not the original owner.
We contacted the car reporting service about this. They refused make any adjustments of any kind including buying the car back per their advertising. They had a series of interesting excuses for what they did. They later "adjusted" their report of the car after we had several conversations with them. We kept the car and enjoyed it immensely but felt that the car report was worthless.
Do not rely on any claims made by a car reporting service. If this guide was helpful to you, please vote below. Thanks!