Lessons of used car buying

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Jesus Alvarado thought he could trust the man on Craigslist from whom he bought his 2004 325ci until it exploded in June.

"It's not fair, but nothing else we can do,” said Alvarado.

CBS19 had originally reported on the incident soon after it happened. Alvarado asked BMW North America for answers as to why this would happen.

He said BMW told him he was the eighth owner of the car. It had previous accidents, was a flood car, and was not taken to a professional mechanic by past owners.

"Apparently the car had an accident in the back and also in the front,” said Alvarado. “So that's the main problem."

Alvarado said he has learned from this.

"If the car is from somebody else, it's not from the dealer, you have the risk,” said Alvarado. “If you never pay attention to everything, every single detail on your car, it's going to be a big problem in the future.”

TJ Fadley, general sales manager at the used car dealership Free Bridge Auto, said past problems with a car can often go unreported.

"You have AutoCheck, you have Carfax,” he said. “They give you a history as to whatever's been reported. Now in certain cases, some stuff doesn't make it on there. If you pay cash for a repair and it doesn't make it to Carfax, it will never show up on there."

Fadley said it's important for any used car buyer to do their homework.

"Do your due diligence, if you're going to buy a used vehicle you definitely want to make sure you run it through the paces, give it a decent test drive,” he said. “Have somebody that knows what they're looking at take a look at it. If you don't you're kind of going in the dark."

And if you buy from a dealer like Free Bridge, then the homework is already done for you.

"A dealership is selling it because that's what we do,” said Fadley. “A person is usually selling it because they want to get rid of a problem they don't want to fix."

Free Bridge Auto also typically has a warranty that lasts up to 12 months, 12,000 miles on down. Most individual sellers do not offer warranties.

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