Chapter 10. Popping the Hood on Candidates Using Assessment Tools

Several years ago, I bought a used BMW 325 convertible. Before purchasing it, I reviewed at least 50 cars online and found the one that I wanted. The seller provided me with a Carfax® report indicating that it had never been in an accident. I had a friend test drive it before I flew to Dallas to pick up the car. Just to be safe, I took it to a local BMW dealer there to have it quickly looked over. The dealer gave it a clean bill of health. I wrote the check, got in the car, and drove it home. Life was good.

I took the car to a BMW specialist to fix a few small things once I was back. He opened the driver's-side door, took one look at the inside of the door panel, and said to me: "You know that this car has been in an accident, don't you?" No, I did not know that! "Absolutely," he said. "Look right here; you can see that the VIN number of the car doesn't appear on the inside of this door—but it does appear on the passenger side door. The driver's-side door is an aftermarket product. This door was replaced after an accident."

So much for my forensic abilities as a used car buyer. Fortunately, the car was great, and I enjoyed every moment of driving it. However, I learned my lesson: It is not enough to do a cursory check on a used car. You have to hire an expert to review every inch of it before you make a purchase. If nothing else, knowing that the car had been in an accident could have helped me cut an even better deal ...

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