Salvage Vehicles National Database — A Good Idea

Posted on November 11, 2008

Buying a used car is almost as much fun as going to the dentist.

Everyone has dealt with used car salesmen at some point in their life and we are not out to attack the used car industry; however, a warning about avoiding the pitfalls when it comes to purchasing a used car.

The used car industry can be very tricky. Vehicles that have been totaled, flooded, fire-damaged, sold and re-sold several times over, and even stolen have been salvaged, repaired and sold to innocent buyers across the nation. Unfortunately, there is little to no regulation or protection in place from fraudulent resale of potentially dangerous used vehicles.

In 1992, Congress tried to remedy this by passing a law calling for a nationwide database that would give people shopping for cars and trucks information about used vehicles.

The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System is a good idea. In September, a call went out to consumers concerning the Proposed Rules. And we all have until November 21, 2008 to submit written comments. Please do so. This is a case where your government has let you down.

Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Justice have failed to implement the database, putting consumers in danger of compromised unsafe vehicles and safety features such as airbags that don’t work.

The database would allow consumers to instantly check the validity of a vehicle’s title, mileage, and history of theft or damage. The data would have to be reported by insurance companies and junk and salvage yards. Failing to do so, Public Citizen the consumer group, has gone to court to find the federal government in violation of the 1992 law.

It would help consumers who have purchased cars that were under water during Hurricane Katrina, or split in two after hitting a tree, or burned up in a fire, then passed on by unscrupulous people.

Minus a national database, we have listed below some common sense things you can do to make sure the used car you’re buying is a safe and sound vehicle.

First- have an independent mechanic inspect the vehicle. This might sound common sense but you’;d be surprised how many people want to save $100.

Go to for recommendations in your area or visit the Better Business Bureau at to see if the mechanic has had any complaints filed against him or his business, provided he or the business is a member of the BBB.

Then — try to buy a car with a warranty; avoid “as is” purchases – even if it’s a limited warranty. But read the details of any warranty to be clear on what exactly is covered and not covered – whether it’s the remainder of the manufacturer’s original warranty or an extended warranty offered by the dealership. Also, be clear on the additional cost of the warranty.

Third — If the dealer claims their service shop has done a 146-point inspection, review exactly what they inspected, what they found, what they fixed and/or replaced, and if anything is under warranty from this inspection.

Lastly — To get a vehicle history, you can visit and look under “research” and search under “vehicle history report.” This is an independent database which has an extensive database of used vehicles and their histories, however it may not have all data submitted by insurance carriers or junk/ salvage yards.

Obviously talk to friends and family members who may know of a good used car or may be able to recommend a used car dealership or whom to avoid.

The safety of your family on the road is too important not to do your homework thoroughly here and support the national database with your comments. That will make it easier for all of us and save lives.

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