AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado is experiencing a record-setting car sales market, both new and used. But getting a good used car can take some work. Consumers can save themselves a lot of time, money and hassle by following a few simple steps.

Annette Martin didn’t follow all the steps when she bought a 2005 Hyundai Tucson from CMC Auto in Aurora. She did ask for vehicle history report and the dealer gave her an AutoCheck report that showed two accidents and an odometer that checks out.

“It only had less than 44,000 miles on it and the price was great. We thought this is it,” Martin told CBS4.

When she got the SUV home, she did further research.

“I ran my own Carfax and right at the beginning it showed total loss,” Martin said.

The third vehicle history agency, VINCheck, also shows the car as being “salvage.” Martin then had a third party company inspect the car.

“Within five minutes, he said, ‘Your car has 83,000 miles on it’,” Martin explained.

The inspector found a yellow sticker on the driver’s side door frame that indicates the odometer was replaced or repaired in 2009 at 39,211 miles. That means that the vehicle that Martin thought had 44,000 miles on it, really does have 83,000 miles.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“If you have to replace that odometer, if you cannot reset the mileage to the mileage before the odometer was replaced, you have to set the mileage to zero and then you also have to put a sticker on the inside left door frame of the vehicle that was the actual mileage before the odometer was replaced,” said Ron Kammerzell, the senior director of Colorado’s Enforcement Division, which oversees the auto industry, gaming, liquor and tobacco, marijuana, and racing.

Martin took the Tucson back to CMC Auto and got her money back. Within days the car was back up for sale on the internet.

“I found that he had relisted the car with the 44,000 miles at the price that we paid… that made me very upset,” Martin recounted.

Martin contacted CBS4, so we took hidden cameras out to look at the Hyndai Tucson and get the sales pitch.

“It’s got 44,000 miles?” a CBS4 producer asked the manager at CMC Auto.

“44,000 miles,” he nodded.

“That doesn’t seem like a lot of miles for a 2005,” the producer said.

“Yep… low miles… you won’t find this year… this low miles,” the dealer responded.

He went on to give CBS4 the same AutoCheck report that showed just two accidents. When asked about the accidents, he told us they were minor. He did not tell us about the “total loss” designation on Carfax or the “salvage” designation on VINCheck. He also did not disclose the yellow sticker indicating the odometer change. The sticker was gone by the time CBS4 looked at the car.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“Why did you take the sticker off it?” asked CBS4’s Jennifer Brice as she later confronted the manager at CMC Auto.

“I didn’t take the sticker off it,” he replied.

“Someone took the sticker off it and you’re the business owner so it’s your responsibility to know who did that,” Brice continued.

The manager of CMC Auto never explained what happened to the sticker, but he defended himself by saying he didn’t end up reselling the Hyundai, he took it back to the auto auction.

“The best consumer protection is to do your homework,” said Kammerzell.

Kammerzell calls the vehicle history reports “hit or miss” so it’s best to run all three reports, Carfax, AutoCheck, and VINCheck. You may find something on one report that doesn’t show up on the others. Also, car dealers are not compelled by law to run those reports, but a consumer can run them themselves for a nominal fee.

Kammerzell recommends you always get a used car checked out by a qualified third-party mechanic before you buy it. And he says that if you do run into fraud with a car dealership, contact Colorado’s Auto Industry Division to investigate.

JENNIFER BRICE
Jennifer Brice is a reporter with CBS4 focusing on crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter @CBS4Jenn.

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