Be careful of previously wrecked cars while shopping

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Though vehicle history services do exist, there are still lots of previously wrecked cars being sold. Photo Credit: Phillip (flip) Kromer/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

When shopping for used cars, one has to be careful about all sorts of things. Not only could recall repairs not have been done, one also has to be aware of previously wrecked cars and the dangers they could pose.

Number of previously wrecked cars on the road is unknown

Many used cars are perfectly fine, but a certain amount of risk in involved in buying one. Automakers only certify used cars up to a certain mileage and there’s often little information about the previous owner. They could have been a maniac.

Not only that, but the interest rate for a new car loan is lower, which is just spiteful. Not only does one have to pay more in interest, one also has to worry about whether a murder victim ever occupied the trunk, not knowing what the service history is and wondering just what that stain on the seat is from, one also has to worry about previously wrecked cars.

Previously wrecked cars, according to USA Today, are everywhere. There are 6 million cars in wrecks that get reported to authorities, about 12 percent of which are totaled. There’s no telling how many are fixed up and re-sold.

Seeing the Carfax will not always save you

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Though there are car history companies such as Carfax and AutoCheck that compile a good amount of information about cars through a number of sources, they aren’t foolproof, according to Today. Crooked salvage yards that repair a wreck for as little as possible and sell it to make a buck aren’t going to be forthcoming about salvage title branding to a dealer or about the work that’s been done.

However, according to USA Today, Carfax does guarantee that if a person pays for a report and a car turns out to have been salvaged and resold without Carfax reporting it, the company will buy the vehicle from the owner. Carfax has done so at least 70 times in the past 10 years.

What to do

In 2009, Congress passed a law creating the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, which has information about cars in Brooklyn to San Diego, and all points in between. The NMVTIS is a database that dealers, insurance companies and various federal, state and local agencies report car information to. NVMTIS information, though, has to be purchased through a vehicle history vendor, such as Carfax, according to its website.

However, as the NVMTIS points out, salvage yards and other parties don’t report everything they should, so there won’t always be complete information.

The best defense against purchasing previously wrecked cars is to get an inspection performed before committing to buying a car by a qualified mechanic, according to Today. Also, keep an eye out for tell-tale signs of body work. Panels that seem ill-fitting and non-uniform paint are some of the usual suspects.


USA Today



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