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Vehicle buyers beware

Updated:
A good example of vehicle buyer beware.

Nearly 500 Oklahomans are getting letters telling them the used cars they bought were at one time totaled, information that doesn’t show up the vehicle’s title.

News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright meets one man who’s worried sick his vehicle is now worthless.

Bruce Martin says after he bought a 2000 Chevy pickup from a dealership 11 months ago, he started noticing some things weren't quite right. Even though he'd been told it had never been wrecked, and his title didn't indicate any problems, he wondered. His worst fears were realized when he received this letter from the Oklahoma Attorney General's office.

It says his truck had once been totaled by State Farm Insurance and should've had a salvage title, so they were offering him some money. "When I saw the letter said they wanted to give me $4,000 and it was a done deal, I thought, this is not fair to me." Bruce will now receive a new title that does declare the truck was once salvaged, which puts him a world of hurt. "My insurance will cancel me with a salvage title. I started looking and being a salvage vehicle; it's hard to get insurance. They'll only cover 75% of the NADA value, but, that's not enough to cover the loan, so I'll be in default with my lender."

Records show State Farm admits there are more than 30,000 vehicles across the nation that had been totaled, which weren't noted on the titles.

Consumer attorney Luke Wallace: "In abstract, $4,500 may sounds like a lot, but when you lose your insurance and default on your loan, $4,500 isn't squat."

Wallace says another concern is some of those cars may not be safet to drive, yet State Farm knew this information nearly two years ago, but citizens have just been finding out since January.

State Farm says it found the problem during an internal review in 1997. It says the company was proactive in reaching a settlement with the AG's in 49 states. It believes the compensation is fair, since people do get to keep their vehicle. They say new policies should prevent this from happening in the future and part of the reason it happened is because all states have different title laws.

Before you buy a used car, go to a tag agency, pay $10 and get a title history. It'll take a few weeks, but it will tell you everything you need to know about the car's history. If an insurance company's name has ever been on the title, that's a huge red flag.
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