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Ojo con los vehículos dañados por la tormenta

Keep an eye out for storm-damaged vehicles

by Kayla Sedbrook 

Do you ever see multiple water-logged cars on the television due to nasty Hurricanes? Those same cars and trucks could end up on a dealer lot near you-even if you live nowhere near the areas affected by the storm (The New York Times Sept. 1).

Flood-damaged vehicles could appear on lots all over the country, often priced very low but with no disclosure from sellers about storm damage. You might think you've found a great deal but, without a critical eye, you could drive off the lot with vehicle problems waiting to happen.

If you're shopping for a used vehicle, take precautions before you buy:

Get the history

Carfax is a web-based service that supplies vehicle history reports to consumers looking to buy a used vehicle.  There are other similar services available as well. A person can obtain a vehicle history report through Carfax for only $34.99 each. You also can use the vehicle identification number (VIN) to check out the vehicle's status through the National Insurance Crime Bureau's VINCheck tool. The National Insurance Crime Bureau is a non-profit organization that looks at insurance-related crime and motor vehicle theft. Their VINCheck tool allows a person to use the VIN to see if a vehicle has been reported as stolen, but not recovered, or as a salvage vehicle.

Check for dirt-but also for spotlessness

Thoroughly check the vehicle for soot, grime, and other signs of water damage. On the flip side, if a vehicle looks unusually clean-particularly under the hood-it should be another red flag that something isn't right.

Trust your nose

Does the car smell musty? Damage from water and sewage can create that odor, which is difficult to mask. Still, sellers may try, so, if you smell strong deodorizer or air freshener, it could be the scent of trouble.

Drive it

Test-drive the car and pay attention to the way it handles and sounds. Listen to the engine and brakes-squeaking or grinding is a bad sign.

Get hands-on

Feel all surfaces for dampness and dirt. Pay close attention to seat firmness, which can be weakened by water damage.

Consult a mechanic

Never buy a used vehicle without having it inspected by a mechanic. With the car on a garage lift, a professional can detect problems that you wouldn't necessarily notice. A mechanic also can run an electrical diagnostic-an important component of an inspection, since water-damaged cars commonly experience problems in this area. Paula from Anaheim, CA thought she found a great deal on a car- until she brought in the mechanic to take a look at it. She says, "You really have to watch out for lies a dealer may be telling you. If they want their car sold they will do anything to make it happen. I had asked specific questions about the condition of the car I was thinking about buying with no signs of past problems. It wasn't until the mechanic came that I realized the dealer had lied to me. A person really has to watch out when in the market for a new vehicle."

If you do find a car you are willing to buy after careful inspection, talk to you Credit Union about getting a loan that works for you.

Published 12-5-2011



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