Something we say a lot around here is, “things aren’t always what they seem.”  Our goal is to help get people into the right car for them. Over time, we’ve realized accomplishing the goal means educating buyers on landmines in the car industry.  The landmines are tricks and traps set up to get you when you’re shopping for a vehicle. The information below explains one of the many ways this industry makes it hard for consumers to buy quality cars with limited information.  

Condition Reports

The image below is a snapshot of a vehicle condition report. Don’t think too hard, it’s exactly what is sounds like; a report showing the condition of a car.  Think of it as a vehicle’s medical history. We spend a portion of each day searching for cars, deciding which ones are the best fit to buy for our clients. One of the first steps in that searching process is looking into the condition report of every car.  When reports show a rough history we know to they’re not worth pursuing, even if the price is seemingly low. A clean history and good quality are the first lines of defense for us when we search.

Why aren’t things as they seem online?

Odds are, you’ve probably never seen a report like this.  There are a couple reasons for that. For one, these reports aren’t available on the web, at a dealership, or a used car website. Which brings up the questions, “Why can YOU guys see these reports?” We’ve got a card to play that regular consumers don’t have in their hand. We hold what’s called a dealer license, which give us an ability to search for cars through a wholesale network on sites that provide these types of reports for every car.  The second reason these reports aren’t readily available on car buying sites and dealerships portals is because if YOU knew the actual condition of a car, you probably wouldn’t buy it. Whoever is trying to sell the car wouldn’t be able to hide anything. You’d know exactly what you should be paying for. 

Unfortunately, we see these reports all the time showing photos of cars (like the one you see in the photo below) appearing to be in great condition. Taking a deeper dive into the vehicle beyond the pictures exposes hidden damages, accidents, and smells.

This particular van has great photos.  If you saw this online you would think it’s in great shape. But, taking a closer look into the condition reports shows many problems; problems that would immediately steer us away from giving that car the time of day for one of our customers.  You can see in the report that there’s structural damage to the vehicle, prior paint, and lots of body damage. The overall rating on the report is a 2.6 out of 5 giving it a whopping 52%; a failing test grade that any student would be quick to hide from their mom.

Why it matters

Here’s why we’re talking about condition and why this matters to any consumer of used cars.  The things we’re exposing on these condition reports can’t be accessed by the average consumer and every single car has its own story.  The full story of a car is hard to come by on the internet. We’d even venture to say it’s impossible. The information available to you is controlled by whoever is selling the vehicle. The last thing we want someone to do is take their best swing at buying car and hope they don’t strike out.  It’s why we constantly say that things aren’t always what they seem to be. People need an expert when buying a car and condition reports are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the reasons people really do need an expert. Luckily, that’s exactly what we do everyday and why we care.

By: Josh Plemon