Man alleges Calgary used-car dealer hid past damages, insurance claims

An Alberta man is warning others about a used-car dealer in Calgary after buying a 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 with $37,538 in past insurance claims. He says the dealer told him the vehicle was in "perfect condition."

CBC runs car history report on random vehicles at Gallery of Fine Cars, finds disclosure not always upfront

Eric LaPlante, 40, says “everything is wrong” with his 2013 Dodge Ram 1500, which he purchased from the Gallery of Fine Cars in Calgary. (Falice Chin/CBC)

Originally published November 7.

An Alberta man is warning others about the practices at a major used-car dealer in Calgary after buying a 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 with $37,538 in past insurance claims, which he says were undisclosed.

"I was told three times, maybe four times, 'perfect condition,'" said Eric LaPlante, who bought the truck from the Gallery of Fine Cars last fall for $33,995.

LaPlante said he found out about the truck's checkered past months later, when he took it to an appraiser at an official Dodge dealership.

Bought car for family, safety reasons

LaPlante and his wife moved to Alberta from New Brunswick four years ago. The 40-year-old metal worker said when his wife became pregnant in 2015, he sold his Audi sports car to buy a bigger, safer vehicle.

His search for a good deal led him to a big white truck at the Gallery of Fine Cars, a dealer with three locations in Calgary.

"Went for road test, liked it. It looked like it was in good condition," LaPlante recalled.

"One of my concerns was making sure I'm not buying a truck that was in an accident. So I asked the salesman if it was in an accident, the answer was, 'no.' Asked them a second time just to make sure and he said, 'Nope! Perfect-condition vehicle.' So I said, 'all right.'"

LaPlante said while signing the paperwork, he asked to see the car history report, but was told the person in charge was not around, so there's no way to find the document.

LaPlante said he had no idea he could run the car history report himself.

Traces of white spray paint, suspicious markings

A few weeks after LaPlante drove the truck home, he noticed small amounts of white spray paint on the screws and bolts around a rear tire, on the bumper and inside the hatch.

There were also traces of yellow markings similar to the ones used to identify parts in scrap yards.

Traces of white spray paint can be found in various parts of the truck, possibly from a new paint job. (Falice Chin/CBC)
Yellow markings on the latch of the truck's hatch. ( Falice Chin/CBC)

When the truck started vibrating because of a loose part, LaPlante took it to a mechanic.

"They did the repair, they changed the drive shaft that was bent," said LaPlante.

"They didn't know why but they told me that the truck's probably been in accident because there's no serial number on the driver door, which means it's a replacement door;  it's not from the manufacturer."

Concerned about his truck, LaPlante returned to the Gallery of Fine Cars, demanding to see the car history report. He said the dealer's employee refused to show him the report. 

Thinking it may have been in a fender-bender in the worst case scenario, LaPlante said he let it go.

"The truck was so new," he said. "I didn't think it would be anything major."

2 collisions, hail damage, repair auction

As time went on, LaPlante said he grew more and more uncomfortable about the truck. Eventually, he decided to trade it in for a newer model, thinking he'd take a small hit.

Laplante said he took the truck to an official Dodge dealership for an appraisal in October. That's when he saw a copy of the CarProof report for the first time.

"It has so much damage! I mean, I just can't imagine what the truck looked like after all that damage," he said.

CBC News obtained its own copy of the CarProof report. It outlines a series of collisions and repairs. Insurance claims from three incidents totalled $37,538 — a lot more than what LaPlante said he had expected.

"I don't feel 100-per-cent safe because I don't know if the airbags were replaced, I don't know if they're company airbags or cheap airbags ," he said.

Insurance claims from two collisions and hail damaged totalled $37,538
CarProof report of LaPlante’s 2013 Ram shows a list of collisions, repairs and sale at auction as an accident repair vehicle. (Courtesy: CarProof)

Gallery of Fine Cars disputes story

The Gallery of Fine Cars denies LaPlante's allegations.

In a statement released through the company's lawyer Monique Morin, it says:

"Mr. LaPlante was provided with a copy of the CarProof Vehicle History Report prior to purchasing the vehicle which he acknowledged receiving and confirmed that he read and fully understood.

"The Gallery of Fine Cars has no record of Mr. LaPlante returning to its dealership following the purchase of the vehicle in November 2015 and is not aware of any performance issues with the vehicle."

Morin also attached a copy of LaPlante's purchase agreement.

Gallery of Fine Cars says the purchase agreement shows LaPlante acknowledged having received a copy of the CarProof report. (Courtesy of Monique Morin/Shea Nerland LLP)

LaPlante admits he signed the document, but said he was misled by the salesperson.

"The line above it — 'All verbal agreements in writing',  he said it's the equivalent of,  'I'm telling you about the CarProof. What I'm telling you verbally is the same as writing,'" LaPlante explained, adding he is a francophone with limited English literacy.

"My English was even worse last year," he said. "I didn't fully understand."

CBC pulls CarProof reports on 16 random vehicles

CBC News sent the VIN numbers of 16 random vehicles from the Gallery of Fine Cars' North-East showroom to CarProof for their histories. Ten vehicles have records of previous repair estimates or insurance claims. Three cars showed previous estimates and claims worth more than $10,000.

CBC News ran 16 VIN number checks on vehicles from the Gallery of Fine Cars. Ten vehicles from the random sample have records of repair estimates or insurance claims. (Joe Varkey/CarProof)

To test whether the Gallery of Fine Cars would disclose a car's history, CBC News went back twice to inquire about a Subaru Impreza with multiple collision records.

During the first visit, the mystery shopper was told it was a clean car. When asked to see the CarProof report, the salesperson went into another room to print out a copy, then came back apologizing for having mixed up the automobile in question.

He admitted the Impreza's history of accidents, adding it was a Subaru Outback that had a clean record.

A salesperson initially said the sporty Subaru Impreza was a “clean car,” but later apologized for misidentifying the vehicle. The Impreza had been in two previous collisions, with insurance claims of $19,481. A second salesperson said he didn’t have the CarProof report on hand but could look it up during the customer’s financing application. (Falice Chin/CBC)

The second visit was less transparent.

Asked whether the car had been in an accident, a second salesperson said he doesn't have the paperwork on hand. He added that he could find out more once the mystery shopper started applying for financing.

Group calls for stricter disclosure rules

The Automobile Protection Association — a consumer rights group started by Phil Edmonston, author of the Lemon Aid guides — says it's time for Alberta to introduce stricter rules for used-car dealers.

"Once it's past the curb, [car dealers] will do everything possible not to compensate you for their mistakes," said George Iny, executive director of the organization.

In Alberta, used-car dealers are not required by law to show third-party car history reports such as CarProof or CarFax to prospective buyers. But companies can still get in trouble for hiding previous damages.

"A business would have to do their due diligence," said Lynette MacLeod from the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC). 

"There's certain legislation under the Fair Trading Act, including unfair trade practices. So for example, it would be an unfair trade practice for a supplier to do or say anything that could reasonably deceive or mislead a consumer in that transaction."

MacLeod said failure to disclose vehicle history is the eighth most common complaint filed to AMVIC.


Falice Chin

Executive Producer, CBC Ottawa

Falice Chin is the executive producer of news at CBC Ottawa. Before moving to the capital, she worked as the founding senior producer of the Cost of Living -- CBC Radio's national business and economics show based in Calgary. Her international work has appeared in the Financial Times, the National Post, Zacks Investment Research, mergermarket and elsewhere.