When buying a used car it’s important to know what sort of deal you are getting. It would be throwing away good money to buy a car that may have had something really bad happen to it. Sometimes unscrupulous dealers can cover up these things and if you are buying privately, you run a higher risk as there is no warranty to guard you.
The car could easily have been in a flood or dumped on by a typhoon and you would never know it, unless you knew what to look for. It could have belonged to a teenager who put it through the crash-test several times. You don’t want a car that has a salvage ticket in another state, so how can you find out about a car’s history? It’s easier than you may think. Once you get the VIN (vehicle identification number) you can go online to a website like autocheck.com, carfax.com or cars.com. Type in the number and hey presto! The car’s details will be sent to you by fax or email usually within a few hours.
Dealers are not legally required to give you the car’s VIN, but increasingly these days they are doing so on request, just to make a sale. If they refuse, be wary that there could be a good reason – they don’t want you to find out what’s wrong with it. Be warned that after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, a large number of flood-damaged cars could be entering the market.
Unscrupulous dealers can hide the fact that the car should have a salvage ticket on it due to the variations in state laws as to what constitutes the terms ‘Salvage’ or “Totalled’. For instance if one state defines ‘totalled’ as being damage equal to 70% of the car’s total value, while another state declares it must be 100%, then there is nothing to stop it being taken from one state to another and declaring that it is not legally ‘totalled’ at all. And there would be no need to record the damage on the new state’s records. It’s loopholes like this that cause untold heartache to honest buyers.
So finding out the car’s history could be the most important part of your buying process. And if there is no record of that car, be aware that it might only be because the seller has been moving too quickly for it to show up yet. So use your nose to tell you if the car has been flooded. A must, moldy smell will alert you to the hidden danger.