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Used car, Carfax questions

I’m looking for a … actually, the car doesn’t matter. It’s a used car. I’m settled on this model, and wherever I buy it doesn’t matter.

So I see one that looks promising at a nearby dealer. It’s a 2010 with 55,000 miles, the price is reasonable, and it’s warrantied for 12 months and 12000 miles. Looks good, right?

But Carfax reports the car has had two owners, each owning the car about 2 1/2 years. There’s no – zero, nada – maintenance showing in Carfax for the second owner. No oil or filter changes. No state inspections. Nothing.

Something else that’s confusing: the car was bought at auction (per Carfax) and has been at the dealership since September, over two months now. Why hasn’t it sold already?

Everything is telling me to run from this car, but it’s exactly what I’m looking for, and that warranty (honorable at all Toyota dealerships) tells me not to worry.

What do you think?

Take it to YOUR mechanic for an inspection, costs only about $100. If they won’t let you, walk away.

Another question: Exactly what is covered by that 12/12k warrantee?

CarFax usually provides incomplete information. The original owner may have been a leasing company, and that would account for the short ownership. If you are really interested in the car, take it to a different shop for a prepurchase inspection. Maybe they can help you sort out the possible problems with the car. Before you do that, open the trunk and pull up the are looking for water from a flood in the trunk. There should be a wheel well in the trunk whether there is a spare in it or not. Pull the wheel out and look for water there. Water damage might be obscured by the spare tire. You might also find water damage in the passenger area by pulling back the carpet. Don’t disassemble the car, just look where you can easily pull the carpet away. If it passes the flood test and test drive, think about spending $100 or so on the prepurchase inspection.

One more thing: if it is an inexpensive car, a recent college graduate may have bought it new and moved on when they could afford a better car. My daughter told me she has friends that did that.

One additional person telling you to run from this car!. What kind of dealer is this? The 12 month warranty will be next to useless if anything goes wrong. It will have many exemptions and weasel clause.

Carfax and others can only report what is reported to them. I change oil at 3000 and 5000 miles but do it myself so it will never get reported. I would be concerned about where it came from such as NJ or Florida but yeah, pay for an inspection or call the previous owner is what we used to do.

Me again.

The car has been in southern Texas all its life, according to Carfax, so flooding isn’t a problem.

Those hundred dollar car inspections seem superficial to me. Mostly things I can check myself. A good one cost about $250.

Oil, brake fluid and coolant changes are so important I do them myself whenever I buy a used car. But if they weren’t done, they can cause permanent damage, especially the first, also the third.

Regarding “The 12 month warranty will be next to useless if anything goes wrong. It will have many exemptions and weasel clause,” I don’t think so. It’s a Toyota warranty, honorable at any Toyota dealership.

OK, understand about some maintenance not showing up on Carfax. I change my old filters myself, and used to change my own oil. But I’m not getting a warm fuzzy that’s what happened in this case. I’m thinking the services just weren’t done.

And yet…the dealership is giving a great warranty on this car.

So two questions remain:

  1. Why would a good vehicle sit for over two months at a dealership?
  2. Why would a dealership give a good warranty to a 5-year old car … unless it was certain the car wouldn’t have problems? That is, can I rely on their inspection and their warranty being good enough for me?

Thanks for all your feedback.

Did you do any checks on the car? Perhaps you don’t want to hire a mechanic, but you can do much of that yourself. Look at the fluid levels and fluid quality. Check tires, brakes. Listen to the engine. Do a test drive. etc.

Get a written copy of that warranty and read it carefully.

I have noticed recently that a lot of maintenance done even at dealerships do not get reported to carfax. So ask to see papers from the dealer. The two owner is a bit concerning, was the 1st one a lease? That would be more reassuring for me.

Me, I go and check the car out, with a grain of salt, as any used car. I make a low ball offer if I like the car enough. Do not fall in love with it and do not spend a lot of time there. Take some levelheaded person with you. Usually my wife works out just fine, doesn’t like cars and can find fault with trivial things like the door handle configuration and would say stuff like “I don’t like this brand at all”.

BillRussell – No, I haven’t yet checked the car. And of course I will, even though the dealership’s mechanics have gone through it carefully enough to give it that warranty. And I’ll pull the dipstick and find the oil clean. What will that tell me? That the oil was just changed. It won’t tell me how often the oil was changed in the previous two years, though. I guess that’s my biggest concern, the engine. Hard to break an automatic transmission nowadays, and brakes aren’t that expensive to fix. But an engine…

Galant – Yes, the first owner was a lease. That’s reassuring for me too. It’s the mystery second owner that troubles me.

I would really read that warranty closely, I seriously doubt it is an actual factory warranty on a five year old car. Why even consider a vehicle that makes you ask questions ? Texas is not a flood free zone.

Here’s the warranty information, copy and paste.

"Our certification process keeps you in mind every step of the way. The TCUV standards apply from the time a Toyota dealer acquires the vehicle through to the final sale. Each candidate for certification can be a current model year vehicle, up to and including six year old models, with 85,000 miles or less on the odometer. Prior to the rigorous 160-point inspection every certified Toyota goes through, a CARFAX vehicle history report is reviewed to ensure that only the best of the best vehicles receive the Toyota Certified Seal of approval.

12-month/12,000-mile Comprehensive Warranty
7-year/100,000-mile Limited Powertrain Warranty
1 year of Roadside Assistance
160-Point Quality Assurance Inspection
Free CARFAX® Vehicle History Report™
Standard New-Car Financing Rates Available
Extended Warranty Coverage (items 1, 2 and 3 above) transferable at no cost for added resale value.
Reconditioned to Toyota’s exacting standards by Toyota factory-trained technicians
Warranty honored at over 1,400 Toyota dealers in the U.S. and Canada
Trade-ins accepted
Trouble-free handling of your transaction, including DMV paper work.
All important information clearly spelled out in your contract."

You know what, I’ve just noticed “7-year/100,000-mile Limited Powertrain Warranty.”

That does it. That gives me peace of mind on the engine. It’s too late today, and tomorrow’s Sunday, but Monday I’ll call the dealer to see if the vehicle is still available. If it is, I’ll buy it.


Here’s my thoughts . . .

The fact that it was leased concerns me more than the mysterious second owner

I’ve been turning wrenches for quite awhile, and I know that many people that lease do not take good care of the vehicle

Their goal is to operate the vehicle as cheaply as possible. They might be getting their oil changes done at iffy lube, if they do it at all. And you can forget about servicing the transmission fluid, coolant and brake fluid. If they need tires and brake before the lease is up, they’ll go to some cut-rate place

I’d also expect the guy leasing it probably didn’t monitor any of the fluids. may have never popped the hood, for that matter

I realize there are exceptions

But what I described is not uncommon

I may be wrong but I think the 7 year 100,000 mile limited warranty is from new not from when you buy it used. The key word being limited.

I’ve Bought Several Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles. The Cost Of The Warranty Is Rolled Into The Sales Price.

Be sure the vehicle hasn’t been wrecked and repaired. Warranty will not cover problems associated with that.

Also, I feel better when I pop the trunk and find that the spare/jack have never been removed, there’s an Owner’s Manual in the glove compartment, and the dealer’s got the 2 keys and Fobs that came with the new car.

Take an extensive test drive (I like to take the car over-night) and have them fix anything that bothers you prior to a deal. If it needs tire balancing, etcetera, have them put it in the shop and take care of it.

How many miles were put on by each pre-“owner” ?


I just checked the Toyota certified web site and the 7 year 100000 miles limited warranty starts when sold new , that means a 2010 only has 2 years left for time and the 100000 minus what the odometer now reads . If the OP thinks he is getting the full time and amount he is wrong.

Yes, this is a standard Toyota CPO; the 7yrs/100K is whichever comes earlier and it is from the sales date.

I have bought quite a few CPO cars, but I mentally exclude the CPO portion from the pricing. Go to and kbb and see how much this car is worth in a private sale and maybe pay an extra $500 since you are buying from the dealer. If they don’t balk, walk out.

The 2nd owner probably dumped the car because he/she didn’t like it, who knows. I have sold cars after 6 months too. I am not saying this is a good car, but I also sense a lot of paranoia about the car here. Any used car is a gamble. You have to calculate the savings over your car ownership lifetime. So, you could end up with one or two lemons, but gotta be careful.

Even a new car could be a lemon and even though you can fight it, it is a pain.

Whoa, I’ve gotten a ton of good advice here. Thanks for clearing up the “7yrs/100K” for me. Also thanks for the advice about a leased vehicle. It sounds logical, even if it’s against other advice on the internet. (Can you believe it? The internet might have bad advice? But not at Car Talk.)

I’ve got a perfectly good car, a 2007 Honda Accord, whose only fault is that it’s too noisy inside (a common characteristic of Hondas, you probably know), even with “quiet” tires. The Honda lets me wait until I find the right car. Which this Venza isn’t.

At 69, with only 10-15 years of driving left (knock wood), I’m looking for my last car. I owe my wife, after a lifetime of beaters, a little more lux than the 4-cyl Honda. We used to have a a 1963 Dodge Dart station wagon and a 1977 Chevy station wagon, and loved them both. The Venza is essentially a Camry station wagon. I think she’ll love it.

But not this one. San Antonio is a big city. I’ll find another.

Thanks to all for your advice. You’re the greatest.

Thinking that someone will like a vehicle just because you do is not logical . Not involving your wife in this purchase is just asking for a long headache.

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Our Olds was a leased vehicle and its over 200K now with no big issues except taking up space. You have to remember that leased cars belong to someone else not the driver and they require servicing according to the manual. It would be nice though if you could check for sludge somehow under the valve covers but don’t think there is access even with a probe.