Knoxville woman says car dealer claimed totaled car had clean title

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Across Tennessee, about 6,000 vehicles each month are deemed a total loss by the owner of the vehicle. Many of those cars are eventually repaired, but the title to those damaged vehicles are supposed to reflect the car was “totaled” or “salvaged.”

If a car has been salvaged, that information must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold, and the buyer must sign the paperwork. A vehicle is considered salvaged when it has been damaged to the extent that repairs to make it safe would exceed 75 percent of its fair market value.

A young Knoxville woman bought one of those cars, but said she did not know its history. Rufusia Murphy has owned the Honda Accord for less than two months. Not only did she like the color, but the car had low miles and lots of features.

She bought the car from Transilvania Auto, a new dealership in East Knox County. The owner is Pavil Branistareanu. The Honda was the first car he sold after getting his dealer’s license.

“He told me it had a clean title,” said Murphy, adding she learned otherwise later. “There are missing bolts, axles need to be worked on, the title is rebuilt.”

The title shows the car had once been totaled, then rebuilt. Murphy’s longtime friend Roy Gilreath is longtime friend, a former car salesman. He said there had apparently been extensive front-end damage. The radiator is still loose and the car developed strange noises.

“The popping is under the suspension. That’s where Honda showed her that the bolts are missing there had been significant damage underneath it,” said Gilreath.

After hearing those popping noises, Murphy took her car to a local Honda dealer. A print-out from the dealer indicates missing bolts in the subframe, drive axles and axle seals all needing “immediate attention.” Murphy was also given a complete CarFax print-out while at the dealer.

It shows the car was declared a “total loss,” and “salvaged,” in May 2016. Then when Branistareanu purchased the car, a new title was issued that indicates the car was salvaged.

“He never disclosed the information to me,” said Murphy.

“There is a law that you have to reveal this. Tou have to disclose this to a customer. Flood damage, odometer discrepancy, or a salvage history. And to sign off what was reveled to them, that they were told,” said Gilreath.

Murphy said she was not shown the branded title when she bought the car and was never asked to sign any papers verifying she was told about the title. Gilreath went with Murphy when she purchased the Honda.

“He told me this car was not salvaged. I plainly asked him,” said Gilreath.

Vehicles with branded titles, whether salvaged or rebuilt cost far less than cars with clear titles.  At Transilvania Motors, Branistareanu claimed Murphy knew about the salvaged title but admitted he did not have her sign papers like he should have.

“Because I’m new, I made a mistake. I didn’t have the papers to prove it, so I just tell it to her,” said Branistareanu.

He said Murphy was lying when she said he didn’t tell her the car had been salvaged. Murphy says she is telling the truth.

“He has no sympathy behind what he did. He just doesn’t care. And it’s wrong,” said Murphy.

Murphy says she’s going to report the salesman to state authorities and may even file a lawsuit against him.

There are several things you can do to avoid buying a damaged car. Ask the dealer if the vehicle you are considering has had any damage repaired. The dealer is required by law to tell you the truth.

Ask the salesperson to put any information about damage in writing. If the salesperson is not willing to do that, then reconsider buying the car from that dealer.

Check CarFax. Some dealers offer the service for free while others might charge a small fee. It is worth it in the long run.

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