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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Did Katrina Do a Number On That Used Car You're Looking At?


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Knowing the complete car history of a used car used to be a bit like the ancient Roman art of casting chicken entrails to predict the future. Nostradamus was a little vague on interpreting the car buying decisions of the likes of you and me. Revelations predicts massive car disasters and explosions regardless of vehicle choice if you read between the lines a little, and the DaVinci Code might only reveal something useful if you were one of Mary Mag's great-great-great-great-great...great grand children; in which case you might have a knack for turning lemons into Lamborghinis.

To check out the history of a potential used car purchase you could try getting a paid report from Carfax.com or Auto.ConsumerGuide.Com (I prefer the latter), but both cost you to drop $18+ to get a comprehensive report. For about $10 more you can ususually get a bunch or unlimited reports for 30 days or so, so have your VINs lined up before you pay.

Both sites are very comprehensive about lemon law information, repair histories, accident and repair data and the like and could save you a great deal of money and many headaches.

Before you fork over $18 to $20 bucks, you might first want to check the Vehicle Identification Number or VIN against the FREE (free is always good in my book) National Insurance Crime Bureau Hurricane Vehicle and Watercraft Fraud Search Page at NICB.org.

The NICB database taps into at least 26 major insurer databases. All the familiar insurance companies are represented. Many I do not recognize are there too; these may cover many small carriers. The NICB site makes you check off an acknowledgment of your understanding that they do not promise to include every damaged car in their search results.

After all, some insurers are not represented, some records may be incomplete, and some cars were not reported damaged so as not to impact vehicle/watercraft insurance rates - and - gasp - some may not have been insured in the first place (say it isn't so, GEICO!)

If the NICB database is incomplete you might ask why bother to check it?

Any insured car with substantial damage that might be worth selling later will probably be in it. There are not that many mistakes after all.

As a practical matter, if the vehicle you were looking for was trashed by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita or Wilma you probably don't want to bother looking any further, not at least without a lot of further discussion with the seller.

At the very least you should argue that he or she should pony up for the more expensive report with the agreement that you will offer a copy back in return. Perhaps that will reveal that the damage was minor and easily repairable.

Perhaps if coming from a used car dealer they will offer a warranty that they were not offering before.

Especially if they had not represented to you that the vehicle had come from these areas.....

Finally, you may be able to use inclusion on this list to argue for a break in the price, after all, when it comes time for you to sell the car, you will have to make the same argument yourself, won't you?

So check it out, the NICB database is a must for anyone purchasing a used car or boat.

So why is a comedy blog talking about this? I had a vin number to look up and was trying to find free information of course, and was worried because the car I was looking at had a Mississippi vehicle sticker and a temporaty Illinois plate. Not a good sign.

I wanted to avoid a comedy of errors. The car passed the NICP test. I may still pass. But the price was good so we will see.

Remember, Mass Transit is still the most fuel efficient and cheapest way to go. It is safer and healthier for you too. And that is no joke.


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Blogger Johnny Cuban said...

That was funny like a heart attack!

6/01/2006 7:27 PM  

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