If you are following me at all, you know I recently bought a 2003 Toyota Camry. In the process of tracking down some of the problems that started to appear after we purchased it (P0420 and some other ODBD II codes) it was discovered that the car we bought was not the car we thought we bought…
As it turns out the car we bought has 260,000+ miles and the one we thought we bought has 119,000 miles, which if you do the math is a big difference.
Yes, I was sad, yes we filed a police report. We bought from a private party, so we really had little to no recourse.
During this process I discovered that you can buy a clean high mileage Toyota car and simply swap out the instrument cluster for a “lower mileage” unit, then proceed to sell that higher mileage car as a lower mileage car with the lower mileage price. See how that works. Nice little trick that I had the pleasure of experiencing.
So to the title of this article, which is how we discovered we had been ripped off, my friend that works for a Toyota Dealer here in town decided to pull the Carfax report since the problems we were having (P0420 –> Needed a new catalytic converter and leaking valve guide seals) just were not jiving with the amount of miles the car purportedly had. Once the carfax was pulled we discovered that our car had indeed seen a few more miles than we were told.
My friend told me that later model year Toyotas have attached the vin number to the instrument cluster so you can now verify the cluster matches up with the car. Not sure how easy that would be to check, but it’s worth mentioning.
The bottom line is pull a carfax report or demand they provide one with the car.
I also suggest just as a general rule to make sure the private party person selling the car has ID and that that ID matches the name on the title. This doesn’t always mean you are getting scammed if they don’t match, but it’s a good indicator that everything is not on the up and up.
I also suggest writing down the Name of the seller, verified by ID and the ID number/Drivers license number. One other trick you can do if you dare, is to ask them to take a picture with you and your new car. Make sure they are in the picture. If they won’t do it, that’s another RED FLAG!
Last but not least, and I know this is easier said than done, listen to your gut feelings. If your gut doesn’t feel right, RUN!!!