Hidden camera investigation uncovers used car odometer rollback

Used-car salesman refuses to answer questions

By Lauren Sweeney, Andy Cerota - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - Texas is the second state in the nation for odometer fraud, according to data compiled by Carfax.

It occurs when an odometer’s mileage is rolled back, or lowered, to make the vehicle appear to have fewer miles. 

“When you lower the mileage on a vehicle, you are artificially inflating the value of it and costing consumers thousands of dollars,” said Chris Basso, a spokesperson for Carfax.

The vehicle history report website estimates that over 150,000 vehicles in Texas are suspected to have an odometer rollback.

Chris Zimmerman and his wife are driving around in one of those vehicles.

When Zimmerman and his wife had a third child, it was time for a minivan, so they went to Craigslist to shop for a reliable vehicle with low miles.

 [READ: Used car buying checklist]

In June, Zimmerman came across an ad from a man who claimed to be selling his wife’s van and only identified himself as Mike. He was selling a Honda Odyssey and advertising the vehicle had less than 80,000 miles.

When Zimmerman agreed to meet the seller, he didn’t expect to end up in the parking lot of a gentleman’s club off the Gulf Freeway.

Mike, as it turns out, was not a private seller. He actually worked for Texans Motors Inc. and sold cars out of the back lot of that club.

Despite hesitation, Zimmerman purchased the van. But his wife didn’t like it, so they decided to resell it. That’s where the problems began.

 

When Zimmerman took the van to a dealership to sell, they ran a Carfax and told him the van actually had 150,000 miles on it.

“It was double what was on the odometer,” said Zimmerman.

He drove it back to Texans Motors Inc. to try to trade it for another van that said showed 115,000 miles on its odometer. This time, Zimmerman ran his own Carfax report, which showed the van had 215,000 miles.

 [MORE: Free Carfax odometer check | Check VIN history in Texas]

“At that point we said, 'Look, there's two vans that have rolled-back miles. This is beyond coincidence.'”

Zimmerman ended up purchasing the second van anyway because he did not want to get stuck with the first van. Afterward, he filed a complaint with Carfax.

Months later, Channel 2 Investigates went undercover to Texans Motors after responding to an ad on Craigslist that said "Call Mike.”

The ad listed a 2006 Mitsubishi Montero with 88,000 miles, and that mileage reading could be seen on the vehicle during a test drive.

Mike refused to give his full first and last name, but gave an explanation for why the miles on the car were so low.

He said the vehicle was a theft recovery and the radio, seats and the odometer cluster had been stolen. He claimed he had to go to a junkyard to get a new odometer and he could not find one with the right mileage.

He said he was not sure about the mileage, but he thought it was around 110,00 or 120,000 miles.

According to a Carfax report for that vehicle, it was sold at auction in November 2015 with more than 166,000 miles on it.

On another occasion, an associate of Mike’s at Texans Motors told a KPRC 2 News photojournalist that a 2007 Honda Odyssey had 90,000 miles on it. The Carfax report showed it had more than 226,000 miles on it.

On the same day, the associate also pointed out a 2006 Hondo Odyssey that Mike claimed had 116,000 miles. The CarFax for that vehicle showed more than 200,000 miles.

When KPRC 2 News anchor Andy Cerota showed up to ask questions, Mike took off running.

Texans Motors Inc. is registered with the Secretary of State to a man who resides in a nearby apartment complex. He did not answer his door, but in a message on Facebook said he was advised by counsel not to comment to Channel 2. 

2016 Click2Houston.com/KPRC 2