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Getting the facts on problem used cars

   Was that used car you're looking at on the dealer lot ever stolen? Was it badly damaged in a flood or fire? Was it in a serious accident?

   Sometimes it's hard to know for sure. And even the best reports that private vehicle-history companies can produce don't always say everything, and they aren't cheap.

   But consumer advocates say a new federal database that's being unveiled today will make it easier and cheaper for prospective car buyers to find out a used vehicle's full history.

   There's just one problem: Some of the biggest states, including New York and California, aren't letting consumers have access to the information they've sent to the database.

   The state says it hasn't made a decision yet on whether to fully participate in the database, known as the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.

   But critics say New York doesn't want to give up the revenue it now makes selling vehicle information to Carfax and other vendors.

   Visit to learn more about the system, which is being run by third-party contractors. And let us know what you think of the new database.

   Do you want New York to makes its motor-vehicle information available to consumers? And have you ever had a problem with a used-car lemon with a bad history you didn't know about?

   -- Stephen T. Watson


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