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EARL GRUBBS of Cranberry Township, Pa., hadn’t even arrived home from the dealership with his new car before the air bag warning light came on. It was last October, and he had just bought a used 2005 Buick LaCrosse CSX with only 45 miles on the odometer for $20,000.
Mr. Grubbs, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, thought he had gotten a great deal on a car that cost about $30,000 new. It was a certified General Motors used car, and a Carfax vehicle history report showed that the Buick had never been damaged.
But like the telltale heart of the Edgar Allan Poe story, the air bag light linked the car to its troubled past. Mr. Grubbs had bought the car far from, and about a year after, the hurricanes that devastated the Gulf Coast.