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Car Buying Tips

Don't Shy Away from Rebuilt Cars Put Yourself in the Driver's Seat with These Tips

(ARA) - Before you buy any vehicle, it is always a good idea to have it checked by an expert. As a consumer, you need to know what you're paying for. Although many states have "lemon laws" protecting consumers from unscrupulous sellers, you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble by having the car inspected before you drive it off the lot.

While some flaws are obvious to even the average consumer, certain problems can be hidden from buyers who rely on their own appraisal. The condition of the frame and body, for example, are integral to the soundness of the car. Yet, after a car has been repaired, it is difficult for the layperson to detect the repairs, and to judge whether they were done correctly.

Quality frame and body repairs can often cost more than the vehicle is worth, and improper repairs could be structurally unsafe. That's why it's important to find out if repairs were made and if they were made correctly. Here are some tips on what you can do before purchasing a used vehicle to make sure you get what you bargained for.

* Ask about the car's accident history. If it has ever been in an accident, what was the damage and who fixed it? Is the auto body shop that repaired the vehicle registered with any collision repair industry associations?

* Is there paint overspray or primer in the doorjambs, trunk or engine compartment? These are signs that the vehicle has had body repairs. Check the paint. Do all of the vehicle's panels match? Check the gaps between body panels -- are they equal? Unequal gaps may indicate improper panel alignment or a bent frame. Do the doors shut properly? Do the keys open all the door and trunk locks? If not, the doors and trunk lid may have come from different vehicles.

* Has the vehicle's certificate of title been labeled "salvage?" Salvage means that an expert has determined that the cost to properly repair the vehicle is more than its value. This usually happens after the vehicle has been in a serious accident. If this is the case, check with a qualified auto body expert. Not all salvage vehicles are bad -- properly repaired salvaged vehicles can be a safe and sound investment.

"A vehicle is considered a total loss when the insurer determines that it is not worth repairing," explains Jim Hallett, president and CEO of ALLETE Automotive Services. ALLETE is the parent company of ADESA Impact of East Providence, R.I., one of the largest total loss auction chains in the United States. Different states have different total loss thresholds. In Florida, for example, the insurance company must declare a vehicle a total loss when the estimate to repair it exceeds 80 percent of the book value. In Oklahoma, it is totaled at 60 percent.

"Many of the vehicles declared to be total losses are repairable," explains Hallett. ADESA and other auto salvage auction companies act as sophisticated "recyclers" of vehicles that have been declared total losses by insurance companies by finding buyers who will rebuild the cars or use them for parts. Insurance companies don't want to deal with buying and selling cars, so they turn to companies like ADESA that manage the total loss recovery process.

Rebuilt vehicles must be retitled as such, and states require the owner to present sales receipts for major component parts that were used in the repair, along with serial numbers of vehicles from which the parts were taken. This ensures that consumers know they are buying a salvages car. Generally, "before" photos of the damaged vehicles are also required, so inspectors from the Department of Motor Vehicles can compare them with the repaired car.

"We help insurance companies provide better service to their policyholders, as well as providing low-mileage, recent-model-year wrecks that have been branded "rebuidable" to independent dealers," says Hallett. "Rebuilt cars provide an option for consumers looking for a good value."

For more information on the services provided by ADESA, visit the company's Web site at

Courtesy of ARA Content

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