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Bill would provide real help for many

Give West Virginia legislators several years ago credit for wanting to protect their constituents from junk cars. But like so many consumer-protection laws, the statute enacted for that purpose was detrimental to many it was supposed to help.

Under current law, if you want to buy a used car or truck in “as-is” condition, you will have to get it from a private owner. Dealers are not permitted to sell vehicles without at least limited warranties.

A bill approved 33-1 by the state Senate would change that. It would permit dealers to sell some cars that don’t run and can’t pass the state safety inspection.

Vehicles could be sold without warranties if they meet one or more of the following conditions: The price is less than $2,500, the mileage is 80,000 or more, the vehicle is seven or more years old, it has been customized for show or racing, or it is inoperable and heavily damaged.

A crucial key to the bill is that dealers would have to disclose all the defects in such a car or truck.

Who would buy such a car? Lots of people, including those with limited resources but plenty of time and skill to make repairs.

Enactment of the bill should help consumers in another way: If you have ever traded in an old, beat-up vehicle, the dealer may have told you that because of the cost to him of making it saleable, the honest trade-in allowance was zero. Allowing him to take the car and sell it “as-is” could permit the dealer to offer a few hundred dollars in trade-in value.

House of Delegates members should follow the Senate lead and approve the bill to provide some real help to many West Virginia consumers.