Many years ago, I worked for an automotive manufacturer. It was a common saying that "all new cars are alike, but every used car is different."
What we meant by that was that the differences between two brand-new Maximotor Mojomodels were generally insignificant. But once those two Mojomodels were a few years old, they could be very different, depending on whether one owner had driven many more miles, or had the car serviced less regularly, or had driven nothing but short in-town runs, or lived in an area with high use of road salt, or... or... or.... Those differences were potentially endless, and could be critical.
Which is why buying a used car could be fraught with peril. Even if you were armed with the latest Consumer Reports, and knew that Maximotor Mojomodels were highly rated for reliability, safety, and durability, could you be sure that this Mojomodel -- all shiny with fresh polish, "only" two years old, with "only" 20,000 miles on the odometer, and tricked out with all the options available -- was really a good buy?
When I bought my first car, I hired an independent mechanic to go over two possibles for me, because, honestly, it could have been a bunch of mice running around on a wheel that made the car go, as far as I knew. I had my heart set on a cherry-red Fiat, but on Terry's recommendation, ended up with a lime-green Subaru that served me well for several years.
But what if you don't know a good independent mechanic? That's why I thought CarMax was a great idea when it was introduced in the early '90s. It dealt head-on with many "used-car dealer" stereotypes. Go to its site (here) and right at the top you'll see that "All of our used cars are CarMax Quality Certified and include a 5-day Money-Back Guarantee". Deeper in the site, and in TV commercials, the company trumpets its "125+ - point inspection" that "checks the core systems of every car".
Wow, I feel better!
Alas, it appears that "Quality Certified" may not mean what you or I think it means.
According to a Christopher Jensen article in today's New York Times, " a coalition of 11 consumer groups has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate" whether CarMax ads are deceptive.
The groups say CarMax does not fix vehicles that have been recalled before it sells them, even though the retailer’s ads promise that the vehicles have had a rigorous quality inspection.
It should be noted that while the "National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires new-car dealers to fix recalled new vehicles before they can be sold", this is not true of used-car dealers or used cars. (Did you know that? I certainly didn't.) The Times article notes that NHTSA "is seeking such authority from Congress." (Given how quickly Congress takes action these days, I'm not holding my breath.)
According to a CarMax spokesperson, "CarMax provides the necessary information for customers to register their vehicle with the manufacturer to determine if it has an open recall and be notified about future recalls."
Which is probably just as far as they need to go, legally.
The CarMax spokesperson is right that "automakers did not give retailers like CarMax the authority to carry out recalls at their facilities", but there is nothing preventing CarMax from taking a vehicle on its lot that is subject to a recall to the nearest authorized dealership, having the recall repair done, and then bringing it back to the CarMax lot.
Sometimes, going just as far as you need to go isn't far enough. Especially if you are trumpeting that the "foundation" upon which your business is built is "INTEGRITY" (their caps, not mine).