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Certification fraud?

I checked out a 2008 certified Honda Civic EX at a Honda dealer in Connecticut, a lease return. The car smelled of mildew and there was rust along the edge of break disks. The salesman said the smell was because they had washed the throw carpet in the trunk and had thrown in back in while it was still damp. The free carfax was clean. Should I have checked for dead fish under the driver’s seat ie. were they trying to pass off a submersed car? How

extensive is certification fraud?

I’ve never seen a car without rust on the edge of the brake discs. In fact, you will see some rust on the braking surfaces of the discs if the car sits for a week or so. The mildew smell, however, would bother me.

I would have an independent pro check this thing out. Certified used Hondas tend to be pricey to the point that it is almost worth it to skip lunch a bit longer to save up for a new one. You wouldn’t want to spend all that money on a flood-damaged car!

“Certified” used car means NOTHING !! It means whatever the dealer wants it to mean, subject to change as necessary…It’s a used car, sold “as is”…

Brake rotors ALWAYS have rust on their edges…

In addition to the helpful comments already posted, I want to add a few thoughts of my own.

Reliance on Carfax reports is…not a good idea.
There are so many cases of missing information and misinformation on these reports that a “clean” report cannot really be trusted. Unfortunately, a large portion of the public has been hoodwinked by advertising to believe that these reports are reliable, when that is absolutely NOT the case.

If you have ANY misgivings on a used car, it is a good idea to pass it by.

Used cars are like commuter buses. If you miss one, another one will be along shortly.

rust on brakes, very common not a big deal.

Musty smell, if the reason is as they describe it you can open the trunk and the smell should be significantly worse than in the cabin. If you like the car and are concerned about possible flood damage you can have the car inspected by an independent mechanic before you buy it. A pre-sale inspection by a mechanic is always a good idea for any buyer of a used car. A “Certified” car is still a used car.

Cars can get a stale smell when they sit a long time without any windows open, but this needs to be checked out to be sure there is not a more significant problem lurking.

What is e-harmony’s success rate? There are just so many models and options that it is nearly impossible for the average car buyer to know what to avoid and what to look for. And for sure, that "certified’ status is just marketing jargon that means there are no obvious problems.

It’s rather unlikely this car was submersed, but if you have any misgivings about it whatsoever, pass on it. It’s not like it will be difficult to find another '08 Civic EX to look at. These are very common, easy to find cars.

All brake rotors on all cars will have rust on the edges of the brake rotors, unless the rotors were installed ten minutes ago. This in itself indicates no problems whatsoever with the car.

Carfax is virtually worthless. Carfax only knows what Carfax has had reported to them, so even if the car was in an accident, Carfax won’t know about it unless the car was taken to a repair shop that reports to Carfax. The same goes with their maintenance history. As far as “certified” used cars, the term “certified” in most cases simply means they are going to charge you three grand more than most other places will charge you for the same car because their service department has spent a half hour giving the car a “947 point inspection”, meaning all the lights probably work, any trouble codes have been cleared, the washer fluid is full, brake pads have more than 5% life left in them, and the car has been detailed. And if you are lucky, or perhaps unlucky, “certified” could mean you get a really cheap, brand new set of tires if it was discovered that the old ones were either worn, showed unusual wear patterns, or had road noise due to defects or abnormal wear or cupping. “Certified” or not, any used car needs to be inspected by a third party mechanic to reduce your chances of buying a dud.

The salesman’s story smells worse than any mildew possibly could. Pass this one by. And leave the salesman behind with the car. Any salesman that can tell a story like that one should not get your money.

As others have noted, rust on the brake discs is normal and acceptable. But, and I reiterate, the salesman’s wild story is neither normal or acceptable.

“Certified” used car means NOTHING !! It means whatever the dealer wants it to mean, subject to change as necessary…It’s a used car, sold “as is”…

WRONG - This statement is either totally incorrect or it’s completely false.

A manufacturer’s certified pre-owned (used) car is often afforded additional factory warranty. GM dealers pay about $400 per vehicle to have them certified and they must meet age and miles guidelines. In the case of GM the certified cars are covered by the balance of a 36 month / 36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. If the car is just out of this warranty, but still in the age and miles limits then GM gives it an additional 12 month / 12,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. That is meanginful warranty coverage. In any case the cars get the balance of the 5 year / 100,000 mile drivetrain warranty. These cars are not used cars sold “as is.”

The 15 month old certified Chevrolet I recently bought had 10,000 miles on it, but GM extended the warranty to 48 months / 48,000 miles bumper-to-bumper GM factory warranty and the balance of the 5 year / 100,000 GM factory drivetrain warranty.

Please be careful disseminating bogus information. It’s not helpful to people seeking facts.


Certified means nothing to you, the buyer. Smell trumps everything. Their excuses should be ignored as always with sales people. Certified or not,car salesmen are like Washington D.C.; their answers can not be trusted.

Even if a mechanic of any sort checks things on a list, he will not disassemble things to measure the conditions inside. Reconditioned was the laugh of yesterday, it means washed and cleaned.

When you are buying a used car and you have any suspicions, you should assume that things are not right. If the smell could be corrected by drying a trunk mat, it would be stupid for the dealer to just leave it stinking. Things like that could kill a sale, as has been proven by you.

I’m from Hartford. It is one of the cities where you can find the rustiest used cars. The red sand looks nice but I suspect that it causes rust almost as bad as the salt that goes with it. Rt. 84 through town needs a lot of help from sand and chemicals. 91 is no picnic either. You can buy a car there, just have the body checked out.

Fraud? It isn’t easy to quantify. Used cars themselves are always iffy which makes ordinary fraud very hard to prove. A completely fraudulent dealer would generate complaints but you would have to be around to hear them. Some of the people with complaints will sound like Certified whackos, so you can’t tell if the story is true.

I knew one honest gas station owner who used to sell good used cars. They were the only ones that I would classify as Certified or Reconditioned. They sold for about $150 more than the usual rundowns. Hardly anybody would buy them because they were too expensive. Martin was friendly until you said Dave was his brother. Then you had to give him a minute.

Certified can mean ANYTHING. Some cars are manufacturer certified including GM and Honda in this case with specific warranties as you are referring to.

Some dealers used including GM dealerships call cars “Certified” even GM branded ones but it does not mean the same thing as “GM Certified”.

I have to guess, so my guess is there is a sunroof and a water leak into the trunk area that has not been fixed, if you want to fix it you may be able to do so easily but should demand a lower price due to future problems you will have to deal with. Your senses are alerting you to a problem and the dealer is in for their sale, and a lot of fluff falls in between, certified or not.

Is the a Honda CPO or is it dealer certified? If Honda is backing it, the certification means something. The dealer certifies the vehicle either way, but if Honda backs it, you know there will always be someone to turn to. Honda also has a sepcific program that the dealer must meet, and you can look up the requirements at the Honda corporate web site.

What is the dealer going to do about the mildew? If they don’t shampoo the carpet and eliminate the mildew, pass on it. If you are concerned about leaks, ask them to run it through their car wash while you are there and check for wet areas inside. Many dealers have car washes on site these days.

It is not hard to go with CSA on this one. Caddyman we have been throught this before, you are certainly free to express your position that the process for selecting what cars get in the CPO program can be manipulated. The manufacture is involved with BMW’s CPO program and if the Dealer starts cutting corners on CPO elegibility the Dealer can lose its ability to have a cpo program.

Do I need to publish the list that details what is required for a car the be sold as “CPO” for BMW again?

If you bought a CPO BMW that I had prepped you can rest assured nothing on that list was fraudulent. I am not so smart, just diligent, although getting cars ready for the CPO program was much better than to be in the normal dispatch lineup so I did not want to get pulled off the CPO elegible mechanic list.

I never have been a very good liar when it comes to actualy performing the work that is on a list I must sign off on, even if in the short term it is to my detremient and in the long term it probablw will never matter. Does anyone want to see the BMW CPO checklist again? The most interesting thing on that list to me is that there can be no breaks in the cars maintenance history

What I’ve always wondered about Certifed cars sold at dealerships is exactly who it is that has looked the car over, given the car a clean bill of health, and pronounced it certified.

I’ve seen very very few dealers that send used cars back to the service department for any inspection so when the salesman points out the “Certified” sign out front maybe you should ask to see the repair order that the mechanic was allegedly paid from.
Mechanics are not going to do inspections for free so there should be a paper trail.
(Good luck with that one.) :slight_smile:

Also, never ever believe that Carfax, Autocheck, etc. is the final word as to whether a car has had problems or not. Theser reports are frequently incomplete or flat out wrong.

The smell during the test drive was overpowering so I would be skeptical about whether it was simple dampness or easily eliminated. My old Celica, which I’m driving into the sunset, has had a leak from the sunroof and dampness in the carpet and doesn’t smell. I’m also thinking that if I want to buy a car that I should be sure that the VIN on the carfax and ad matches the one mounted on the car too. It was supposedly Honda certified but I drove out of my local area lured by a phantom of a red Civic EX with a stick which turned out not to be available. There are Civics with sticks that I can check in NYC or closer.

As a sidenote I found that the transmission did not seem to demand that I shift as quickly on the Civic as it did on the Celica meaning I didn’t have to shift up from 1st 2nd and up as early. I’m not so sure how much a difference driving a Civic with a stick would be from driving an automatic.


Did the term “certified” include any form of warranty?? The term “certified” means NOTHING. The word “Warranty” means something…If a warranty was offered, what did it cover?

With most cars, the balance of the manufacturers powertrain warranty (if any) can be transferred for a fee…Car dealers seldom provide their own warranty…They will be happy to sell you one that covers little or nothing provided by a third party, a extra cost item…None of this has ANYTHING to do with the word “Certified”…Dealers routinely inspect their high-value used cars to be sure the tires and brakes are serviceable and the oil is changed. They are then professionally detailed, test driven, marked "certified’ and put out on the lot…

The services such as Carfax exist for the same reason as a Certified sign out front; to promote a warm, fuzzy feeling that the used car is one of the absolute best.

I’ve worked for 5 dealers over the years and only one of them would send clean low/mid mileage vehicles back to the shop for a checkover and subsequent sale if no serious problems were found. We were paid about 1.5 hours labor to do a thorough checkover and additional labor to repair any minor problems, catch up maintenance, etc. If the engine or transmission had any problem, even a comparatively minor one, the car went to wholesale and was gone from the lot.

A number of mechanics whom I know and who work for dealers have told me they see very very few cars being sent back from the Used Car Dept. for an inspection or for any repair at all no matter how trivial.
Now and then the mechanics see a few stragglers back in the service department to have a few repairs done but as far as checking them out and declaring them fine enough to be “Certified” that process is as rare as hen’s teeth.

That’s my point about who it is exactly that is inspecting anything.

No reason to post the checklist as there is no reason to expect people to believe it. I really do not have any motivation to lie, but anyway, I would need to sign the documentation(or any other mechanic qualified to perform CPO duties) and the Service Manager also would sign. At times where there are questions about maintenance history the Service Advisor would also sign. One other odd thing about BMW CPO,all tires must be at least the quality the car came with new and no size deviatons from what the manufacture allows. I have seen BMW CPO cars get sold with directional tires mounted wrong.

When I left BMW in 2002-2003 the almost top of the line 7 series was bringing about 78K new, the same level of 7 series today (2010 model) brings 160K new. That is sure some price increase.

A 2011 BMW 760Li v12 twin turbo sedan sells for $135,000.
A 2008 model, same car, Blue Books at $45,000 with 60K miles

Loss on your “investment” over three years, $90,000

Enjoy the ride…