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Buying a used car can be costly and dangerous. Especially if you buy one that's been in an accident.

And some totaled cars end up back on the road without any safety inspections. Unlike most states -- Oregon has no way to ensure that wrecks too damaged to safely repair end up back on the road.

This lack of oversight puts drivers at risk for both their wallet and their safety. A car-fax check is one way to see if a used vehicle has been in an accident.

But the only way to be sure is to pay for a mechanic -- not tied to the sale -- to inspect the vehicle.

It's the best investment you can make in buying any used car.

Drivers beware -- Oregon may be a dumping ground to get damaged un-safe vehicles back on the road.

A Unit 8 Investigation reveals (may lead to legislation) how damaged, possibly unsafe vehicles from other states may be dumped in Oregon where there s no inspections to make sure they re safe to repair and re-sale.

Oregon's kind of a dumping ground for salvage vehicles because it's so easy to get them re-titled, said DMV Senior Investigator Ron Kramer.

Oregon has no formal inspection process to ensure that wrecked cars labeled totaled by insurance companies are safe to repair and put back on the road.

Nearly half of all other states including Washington and California have an inspection process, said Kramer. Kramer said,

That s part of the problem though. how often does a car that was unsafe (totaled by insurance, repaired and resold) and that car gets in an accident -- and say somebody dies because of no air-bag -- who's looking into that?

The problem centers on how used vehicles in Oregon are titled. When an insurance company deems an insured customers car that s been in an accident is too costly to repair than it s worth, it s labeled Totaled by the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV. Kramer said,

That can mean anything from a fender bender to a major accident depending on the value of the vehicle being repaired. Portland resident Jim Kolias said, my 1999 Camry was totally wiped out. My insurance adjuster and the auto body repairman told me it was unsafe.

They said it's not repairable that the frame is bent. Kolias had been in a major accident two months ago where an uninsured motorist ran a red light and collided with him in his Camry.

Two months later Kolias said he found another Camry on Craigslist List he wanted to buy. It too was a 1999 model like the one in the accident so he called the seller. After asking the seller if it had certain writing in the trunk that Kolias had put there he realized the car she was selling was his.

Definitely my car without a shadow of a doubt, said Kolias.

After asking the seller what the vehicle s title branded with the words totaled meant he said she told it had been in a minor fender bender. When the lady said all of it was cosmetic and just the bumper was damaged that was the big lie. Angry Kolias called back the next day but he said the seller was on to him as the previous owner and told me the vehicle had just sold.

My beef is that that car is back on the road in an unsafe condition and how many other cars are out there?.

DMV inspector Kramer said, In Oregon it s up to the buyer of any used car to protect themselves by paying for a mechanic that s not tied to the sale of the vehicle to inspect the vehicle. It may be the best $100 you spend in buying a used car.

To learn more on how to protect yourself when buying a used car log on to www.kgw.com go to news and then the consumer page.

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