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How to avoid buying stolen vehicles

First Posted 08:30:00 08/01/2008

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It is a tedious process but buyers of second-hand cars have to follow two pointers to ensure that they do not purchase carnapped vehicles.

The buyers should know the original duplicate invoice and the original owner of the vehicle they are buying.

Jose Manuel Cuenco, president of the Cebu Auto Dealers Association (Cada), gave this advice to buyers of second hand cars yesterday.

The original duplicate invoice is an official document given by the dealer, who sold the brand new car, to the original owner.

The original duplicate invoice contains all information including the name of the selling dealer, name of the original owner, owner's address, serial and engine numbers and the original amount the first owner paid to buy the vehicle.

?Buyers can get the original invoice from the first owner that is why they need to know the first owner,? said Cuenco in a phone interview yesterday.

By knowing the original owner, the buyer is assured of being the secondary owner and will usually be given the warranty booklet of the vehicle.

?Most dealers and manufacturers give out these warranty booklets which contain engine and chassis numbers and name of registered first owner,? said Cuenco,who is also president of Toyota Cebu Inc.

Warranty booklets have options to transfer to the next owner even if the warranty has expired.

Going through the process of obtaining the original duplicate invoice and knowing the original owner maybe tedious but Cuenco said these are two ways which second-hand buyers can do to protect their interest.

Cuenco also reminded second-hand car buyers not to rely solely on anti-carnapping clearance.

While the anti-carnapping clearance may contain a list of carnapped vehicles, he said, the information may not be updated because many auto financing companies for instance do not immediately declare vehicles which have been carnapped.

He said financing companies usually give a three-month grace period to buyers who disappear with the cars financed by these companies before they report these vehicles to be carnapped.

Cuenco cited as example several car syndicates in Manila, who pose as legitimate car buyers and transact business with auto financing companies.

After a few months these ?legitimate car buyers? disappear with the cars and can no longer be traced because the declared address is fictitious.

He said the finance companies give the three-month grace period hoping the car units will still be returned.

Within the three-month period, Cuenco said, the carnapped vehicles may have been disposed or sold to ?victim buyers.?

Cuenco highlighted the difficulty of determining on first look if a document was tampered with.

The government agencies were not also doing their job to protect the buyers' interest, he added.

Tampering documents is already an art mastered by carnappers and underground business movers so one cannot immediately determine on first look if a document is forged, he said.

Cuenco said these factors make it imperative to know the original owner and the original duplicate invoice.

A car dealer who requested anonymity shared his experience in 2001 when he bought carnapped vehicles in good faith. His shop was raided a few months later.

The source said he bought nine cars at P3 million.

The car dealer, who refused to be named, said all papers were in order including the certificate of registration and official receipt. There were even no records on documents of the Traffic Management Group that the vehicles were stolen.

It was only after eight months that he found out that he purchased carnapped vehicles because police raided his shop and seized the vehicles.

?It's really hard to go to government agencies because there might be connivance between these agencies and certain car syndicates,? the source said.

Cases like this should make buyers doubtful in consulting government agencies, said Cuenco.

?Kay kung tinuoray pa lang nga gibuhat sa mga authorities ang ilang kinahanglang buhaton, maglisod man gyud na og register, maglisod og transfer ang mga sindikato (Syndicates will find it hard to register or transfer car ownership if government authorities religiously carry out what they are tasked to do),? he said.

Cuenco also cited unoriginal security systems of vehicles as another sign that the vehicles are questionable because most alarm systems of manufacturers have specific designs.

He said buyers should also be in the lookout for deals which are too good to be true such as three-month old Fortuner sold for only P1 million versus the brand new price of P1.7 million.


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