RICHMOND (CBS 5) – Buying a certified car and checking Carfax is supposed to give consumers a peace of mind. But when Angielen Pina purchased a 2009 certified Toyota Corolla she discovered the car had been in an accident.

“When I saw the car fax everything looked,” she said. But during a service visit Pina said she was told the car had been in a front end collision.

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“The service guy, he was like ‘oh your bottle water for the fluid is cracked,’” she said. “’It looks like it’s been in an accident.’”

Rosemary Shahan with Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety doesn’t find it surprising.

“This happens very often where consumers buy certified cars that are actually wrecks,” she said.

Still, under state law, dealers are required to disclose whether a car has been in an accident said Shahan.

“If they don’t, it’s usually considered fraud,” she said.

In Pina’s case she said the dealer said they knew nothing about the car accident until she took it back.

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“They’re like ‘oh you’re right. It has been in an accident,’” Pina said.

That’s when she emailed ConsumerWatch where our producer Jessica Ayala called the dealership and was told the car passed their 160 point inspection as well as a DMV Report and Carfax.

Then the dealer questioned if Pina had gotten into an accident. We then took the car to an independent Toyota dealer who confirmed Pina’s worst fear – The car had been in an accident and four major panels were replaced. One part came directly from Marin Toyota in 2009.

“I didn’t know any of this,” Pina said. ConsumerWatch then called Hanlees Hilltop Nissan and the managers said they were not aware even though Hanlees Hilltop Toyota performed the initial 160 point inspection.

A manager at Hanlees Hilltop Toyota said a misdiagnosis is rare, but still admitted to no wrong doing. In the end they did agree to swap Pina’s car for a 2010 certified Toyota Corolla.

Experts still suggest before purchasing a new car having the vehicle inspected by a trusted technician. In Pina’s case, it’s likely that the previous owner never filed a claim, or the insurance company never reported the accident.

Consumers can see whether a car was salvaged through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.

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