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Buying & Leasing a Car

Used-Car Blacklist

A beefed-up registry of damaged vehicles makes its debut.

Finding out too late that there's a lemon in your garage is enough to make your lips pucker. Fortunately, a nationwide database, expected to be fully in place by the end of January, will make it easier to access a car's troubled past.

The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System is the result of a law enacted long ago but only now being implemented in all 50 states under pressure from consumer groups; the statute requires insurance companies and salvage yards to report vehicles that have been totaled or severely damaged.


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Using the vehicle identification number (VIN), potential buyers can run a background check to get a car's odometer reading and theft record, and to find out whether the vehicle has been flooded, totaled, salvaged or smashed.

Data is expected to be more comprehensive and up-to-date than that available now from other services -- and less expensive than a $30 CarFax report, although fees haven't been finalized yet. You'll likely be able to access the information from several Web sites.

A vehicle's history could be crucial in determining whether your car is roadworthy or whether the manufacturer will honor the warranty.

-- Candice Lee Jones