MEMPHIS (WMC TV) - The story of Enas Ahmed's car purchase is the consummate cautionary tale about buying a used car from a private owner.
Ahmed is an especially vulnerable consumer. Just nine months in the United States, her family killed in Iraq, she trusted a stranger who looked like her, talked like her, made her feel comfortable.
Until he ripped her off.
Ahmed's personal story is unique, but the same rules apply when it comes to buying a used car from a private owner:
* RESEARCH USED CARS' RESALE VALUES. It's now easier than ever to research a used car's re-sale value right on the Internet. Check the National Auto Dealers Association's values on any make and model at http://www.nada.com/. Also, get comparable values and price guides at Kelley Blue Book's fantastic web site: http://www.kbb.com/.
* GET VIN #'S. Once you have found a used car you're interested in - either at a dealer or with a private seller - get the vehicle identification number. It is the 17-character code with a mix of numbers and letters in a metal strip on the dashboard on the driver's side. It's also on a sticker inside the driver's side door. Make sure those numbers match!
* RUN A CARFAX REPORT. Plug the VIN number into www.carfax.com. It will initially run a free check to see if there are any reports on the vehicle. For either a one-time fee or for a subscription, you can get further details on that vehicle -- title changes, odometer roll-backs, salvaged records, etc. Be aware that carfax.com isn't necessarily a complete record, but it is an exceptional tool in gathering more information on a vehicle's history.
In Ahmed's case, if she had known about carfax.com, she would have found at least one of the insurance records that indicated the car had been totaled and sold as a salvaged vehicle in Arkansas.
* REQUEST SERVICE RECORDS. A private owner/seller should be able to immediately provide you his/her file of service records on the vehicle. If he/she can't, don't buy the car and end all negotiations. Verify those service records with the body shops or service centers that generated them. If the records can't be verified, don't pursue that vehicle.