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'Buyer beware' more important for car shoppers after disasters

The market for buying and selling used cars is hot. It has been for a number of years. Indeed, major U.S. car dealers responding to a recent survey by Automotive News said used-car sales the last three years have been strong and holding steady. One resulting issue, as we noted in a post back in May, is that if you are a consumer looking to buy used, you face a challenge to make sure the vehicle you are buying is all it's cracked up to be. A new car comes from the factory. How can you be sure where your used car came from?

This is particularly important for safety reasons. Vehicles today are equipped with air bag protection. But as our May post observed, and as Bloomberg recently reported, there are salvage vehicles reaching the market carrying unrepaired Takata air bags subject to recall. And safety advocates say too many sellers are being deceptive in how they market those vehicles.

Air bags with faulty inflators can be deadly - exploding with such force in even minor crashes that metal shards fly through vehicle passenger compartments. At least 100 injuries and 18 deaths have been reported due to the defective devices.

And in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, there's a new warning flag flying. Experts say consumers need to be alert to the possibility that the vehicle they're looking at might have suffered hidden damage from flooding and rains that swept Texas, Florida and Georgia.

They say as many as 1 million cars and trucks may have been affected. And while they may look good to the naked eye, they could have mechanical, electrical or safety system issues that pose risks to you and your family. The experts recommend getting a full history report based on a vehicles identification number and avoiding vehicles from ravaged areas. They also say you should have the vehicle thoroughly checked by a trusted mechanic.

Taking such precautions is important, but if an injury-causing accident occurs and some defect is suspected, victims should meet with an experienced attorney to discuss their legal options.

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