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Before you buy a used car

Because the paper in the window says, “as is,” people may worry that the vehicle they are considering in New York will have some kind of age-related issue, such as a bad fuel pump or transmission. However, as The New York Times points out, there could be a design flaw that has been present since before the car ever made it to the original dealership floor. Major automobile defects such as faulty ignition switches and airbags have been making the news in the past two or three years, but even a small issue could cause a big traffic crash.

Dealers cannot sell a vehicle that has a known safety problem, but auctions and individual sellers are not bound by this law. However, each vehicle has a unique number—known as the vehicle identification number—that can be used to find out if there has been a recall on it. From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database, a buyer can find out not only if the vehicle is one that came from the manufacturer with a safety defect, but also whether it has ever been taken back to the dealer to have the issue fixed.

The group Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety notes that the reason manufacturers recall a vehicle is because it is not safe. Due to the fact that millions of vehicles have been recalled, often it takes months of waiting to get a part replaced. Driving a car in the meantime could be fatal, though, so safety advocates recommend that buyers be wary of any used vehicle that needs defective components replaced, and consider finding something else. 

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