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It can be hard to find a good used car. Don't jump too quickly

The ongoing microchip shortage is hitting the new car market and that is making used cars more in demand.
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An ongoing computer chip shortage is causing a ripple in the new and used car market. Fewer new cars on lots mean prices are also going up for used vehicles. 

But before you snag a new set of wheels, don't jump too quickly. You don't want to buy a lemon just because you need something now. 

Like almost everything else, this is caused by COVID-19. The pandemic shut down a lot of things, including production lines. The ensuing catch-up is slow and many people are left feeling they have to buy something immediately. 

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to the Defenders team by emailing money@wcnc.com.

This week is National Hurricane Preparedness Week and WCNC Charlotte is looking at flood-damaged cars and trucks. These vehicles can show up in the used car market and right now, the used car market is hot. So you need to be careful. 

RELATED: Could your home flood? Have you checked?

If you need a car fast, your best bet might be a used car. But supply and demand are driving prices and that makes it more likely that damaged cars will be passed off as "just fine."

"It's difficult sometimes, but jumping too fast means you might miss something like if there was flood damage to a vehicle," said Tom Bartholomy of the Charlotte Better Business Bureau.

Experts say the first thing you should do is check the vehicle's VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) online with a service like Carfax. It will cost about $40 but it will give you a vehicle history report. Next, check the title and have the car looked at by an independent third party. 

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"Many think, 'Wow, I can't believe this is such a good deal,'" Bartholomy said. "Do yourself a favor, take it to a mechanic." 

Under North Carolina law, flood damage to a car must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. Flood damage is defined as vehicles that have been partially or totally submerged in water resulting in damage to the body, engine, or transmission.

Take a good whiff inside the vehicle when you look at it. If it smells like mold or mildew, there's a chance it's been flooded. Then go look for mud and silt, maybe even under the carpets. If the headlights or taillights are foggy, that's another sign of water damage. 

RELATED: Climate change will bring heavier rainfall to Charlotte

When you can, buy from a reputable dealer. Sometimes used cars are sold as-is and without a warranty. Be skeptical of that and maybe look elsewhere. Even a solid, 30-day, money-back warranty is better than nothing. 

Contact Bill McGinty at bmcginty@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook.

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