• Jan 27th 2010 at 11:00AM
  • 35
You may or may not know this, but that used vehicle on sale at your local dealership with a "clean" title could have been wrecked, stolen or involved in a flood. So much for the pristine title that you looked at before purchasing the vehicle. Congress and the Justice Department have known about this problem for decades and in 1992 the nation's governing body ordered the creation of a national database to show which vehicles were involved in thefts or other incidents.

That's a step in the right direction for sure, one that took a full 17 years to come to fruition. The feds have finally released the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, a comprehensive list of 300 million vehicles. The national database will reportedly save Americans $4 billion to $11 billion per year in fraudulent claims. That's a lot of money because there are a lot of fraudulent transactions every year. Experian claims there were 185,000 damaged vehicles that were retitled in another state, providing a fraudulent clean bill of health. The Detroit News says over one million vehicles are stolen each year and retitled in another state.

Now that the federal database is online, customers and dealers will be able to find out whether the vehicle was salvaged, scrapped or reported stolen almost anywhere in the U.S. Unfortunately, only 77 percent of vehicles are covered under the new database because five states opted not to participate. The five states not participating are Oregon, Illinois, Mississippi, Kansas and the District of Columbia. All four states reportedly cited budget problems as the reason for not being included in the registry.

Customers and dealers can go to vehiclehistory.gov for more information. There are even links to a pair of government-approved sites where you can run a Vehicle Identification Number for $4.95. It may be a bit annoying to pay for a service that was provided largely by federal tax dollars, but it beats the heck out of purchasing a vehicle that was in a serious accident or was found in six feet of water.

[Source: vehiclehistory.gov via The Detroit News]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I dunno what you guys are complaining about. This seems like a great way to protect consumers. With all the flood cars, stolen and retitled salvage vehicles out there, having more information at the time of purchase is a good thing.

      Unless Carfax can also access this database, they just became obsolete (which they have arguably been the entire time.)
        • 5 Years Ago
        While sad for CarFax, in this day and age with the technology available, this information should be easily accessed. I'm all for that. Except for that fine line where the government knows everything about you. But that's a whole different tinfoil topic.
        • 5 Years Ago
        They're complaining because Fox News says everything about government is bad. It's a bunch of sheep who can't acknowledge the enormous good that comes from common sense solutions to modern problems.
        • 5 Years Ago
        ebay motor's access to that free service on all of their listings probably isn't helping Carfax much, either.
      • 5 Years Ago
      We should be grateful when, after only 17-years, the civil servants jumped right on an issue and overlook the fact they did a half-assed job of it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Oh. Great.

      More government. Just what everyone needs. One more thing for them to micromanage into oblivion.

      With a trillion dollar deficit just this year, and a tanking dollar, and rising unemployment due to rising business costs while consumer spending falls...

      Do you really think this is what more government spending should be doing? Are people really clamoring to establish a government mandate for this?

      Or is it yet another set of bureaucrats looking for something to justify their jobs and their budgets for?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I don't necessarily disagree with accountability, here.

        But a national database isn't necessarily the answer... how about a simple federal rule that if a car is damaged or totalled in one state, other states must transfer that declaration on a re-issued title, and can't just ignore the previous damage declaration after interstate commerce activity.

        I don't trust the government to maintain a database on private property items, and still maintain legal privacy protection.

        But most of all, I don't think the government has the money for this. Drunken sailors are even saying "whoa... that might be spending too much money."

        There are other things that need to be corrected, and cut long before the taxpayers pay for this.

        And, Luis... with any car... CAVEAT EMPTOR. Buyer beware. There is always a chance of getting something undisclosed... and that is why I am extremely careful about inspecting cars and knowing who I am buying from, before I buy. I also tend to buy directly from owners, personally, not from dealers who don't know the car's history, or might be even unwittingly peddling damaged goods. I don't rely on the government to tell me if a car is ok or not, and I don't plan to. I certainly don't want to pay taxes for it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The...stupidest...comment. It's beyond me how you teabaggers can be so "anti" common sense. This kind of government service is vital and necessary. Did you bother to even consider that the billions this saves from theft and fraud actually helps our economy?

        Face it: we're a big country with some big needs. We need government, like it or not.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah, because running a central database of information is SUCH nasty big government.

        Maybe we should eliminate the US geological service or other HELPFUL government data services.


        • 5 Years Ago
        Hopefully your next Boxer car was damaged unbeknown to you. Then you can pay out of your own pocket to hire a lawyer and sue. Anything that helps the average joe you seem to be against. Gee, ponder that.
        • 5 Years Ago
        by that logic, no cars should be titled. ever. gov't does that.



        • 5 Years Ago
        No, the government shouldn't title cars. Are baseball bats titled? Computers? Why does private property need to be tracked?

        If you're so pathetic that you'd buy a car that hasn't been thoroughly checked over by yourself, if not also by someone more qualified, because a GOVERNMENT program said it's A-OK, then I'm already amazed that you're even capable of driving.

        And the teaparty strawman is falling over. I don't even know anyone, let alone libertarians, that associate with that group.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I am against all the government waste that's been going on for the last 100 years or so, but I think maybe this might be one of the few useful uses of that money.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm at a loss as to why some of you think this is a bad thing. I guess any reason is a good enough reason to bitch about the current government. I think it's a great idea, & I'm surprised it took them so long.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Stop being so alarmist, half of your reasoning is junk anyway:

        "The government can't afford it, whether the idea is decent or not."

        I will gladly pay a miniscule amount of additional taxes to pay for a service which keeps my insurance premiums lower by stopping or lowering incidents of fraud, and which also may prevent me from taking a huge loss on a big purchase. That money that I don't lose can be spent, which creates tax revenue, which could easily fund this program.

        "Why maintain a database system on what IS an article of personal property? How is that protecting privacy under the law, if the government decides to use the data in the database for some other reason?"

        All of your ownership data is stored by your state anyway, so if the federal government really wanted it, they could just request it from the state. There are many databases on personal property, say land for instance, which ensures that fair claim can be made on sai dproperty; this is essential for legal defense of your claim to ownership. Also, what are they going to use already available title data for? Civic owner internment camps?

        "What money is the government spending on this? they are already a trillion dollars over budget, this year alone."

        This was budgeted for and has been financed in such a capacity for 17 years. Good idea, let's cancel it as it rolls out, so as to waste the massive investment that is already in place. We should probably divert all the money that is going to this project, a relatively liliputian sum, to the defense budget ASAP!

        "Heaven forbid people buy or sell anything without government looking over their shoulder."

        Sorry Charlie, taxes are collected on commercial transactions. To collect said taxes, the government must know about commercial transactions. Under laws enacted by our elected representatives, they have a legal right to those tax collections. If you don't like it, elect someone you think will change it.

        "I am at a loss to see why people think that the government needs to be involved in EVERYTHING, and charge you more taxes to do it..."

        I wasn't aware that a national title tracking databse was "EVERYTHING".

        "What happens when this goes over-budget, and car sales get an extra tax to cover this program, or it gets passed to EVERY taxpayer to pay for even more..."

        Yeah I love slippery slope arguments too! Refer to point 1 about how savings from this program at the consumer level can probably pay for the program in whole. Also, EVERY tax payer who uses a vehicle benefits from this program in potential, why shouldn't they pay for it? Also, decreased investigation costs due to fraud, etc., etc., etc.

        "I thought this country had liberty and freedom."

        You sound like a drunken Randy Marsh from South Park; "I'm sorry, I thought this was America! I'm sorry!" That line is the last refuge for an appeal to emotion; just like when it's done on the news, it's garbage here too.

        "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin.

        Yeah awesome! Quotes are the best! Check this out!

        "Taxes, are the dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society." - Franklin D. Roosevelt
      • 5 Years Ago
      Armenian body shops in Glendale, ca will have major issues on this one... lol
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ditto for the Russians, even my Russian friends tell me never to buy a used car from a Russian..
      • 5 Years Ago
      It is part of the government's job to protect its people from those who would do harm to them. Title-washing is legal fraud, and since we can't actually prosecute people for retitling a car (as there are plenty of legit reasons to do so) we can at least make people aware of what's going on.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah and having the federal government step in and mandate how states treat the titling of property oversteps the boundaries of the federal government's power.

        Creating a nationwide database that enforces no legal requirement and just tracks publicly available data is a much less (legally) precarious way to ensure people can be made aware of washed titles.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Due process is required.

        What due process is being excercised by maintaining data on private property?

        What the government should be doing is closing the loophole on the fraud, and requiring state-to-state transfers of title (on anything bearing a state issued title, not just cars, necessarily) to maintain damage disclosures during a title transfer.

        How hard is it to transfer text from an old title to a new title, to ensure continuity of a damage declaration?

        Easier than maintaining a federal database, and less expensive, too.

        As much as the Federal government abuses the interstate commerce clause... THAT is actually a valid use for it... the database thing is a boon-doggle, a cost, and a potential opportunity for loss of privacy.
        • 5 Years Ago

        There is an interstate commerce clause in the constitution.

        I am one of the biggest critics of how it has been twisted and abused to regulate all sorts of things...

        But interstate commerce of transferring a titled article between states... which is what this is about... is actually a valid basis for an interstate commerce clause rule to maintain damage disclosures.

        It needs not step on states toes any more than to maintain damage disclosures on the title from one to the other. It doesn't otherwise tell states how to manage their titling procedures.

        You said government and taxes were necessary above... yet one small change to an existing system, that is up-front, and available for anyone to see, printed right on the title itself, in order to close a loophole, is something you challenge me on...

        but a database maintained by the federal government "somewhere", that is largely unaccountable, that the public will only have cursory access to, and carries data about personal property, and could be vulnerable to mis-use... and has been bloating the budget for almost 2 decades already... that is OK...

        Which is it, man? is government your benevolent nanny overlord, or not?

        Read the constitution, and you will SEE which one of these is more legal to implement, a small procedural rule, or a big, expensive "database."
        • 5 Years Ago
        Give me a break Boxer

        All of you alarmist think that if you support any government function then you are for a nanny state. I'm sorry you feel like your civil liberties are being trodden on, but in reality, this is just conglomerating already available information into a centralized and easily administered database for a program that will save the tax payer money, indirectly.

        The government rarely gets anything right, but this program is not an instance of failure. They have implemented a system that tracks titles nationwide without insisting on the states altering their behavior or putting any additional processing requirements on the individual. As I said above, they will almost certainly save more money for the tax payer than they spend on the program, and they are using data that is already available.

        There are so many wasteful programs that really are ridiculous, like tax credits for first time home buyers, or cash-for-clunkers which really should be scrutinized and yet you choose this, which is probably a shining beacon of something government actually gets right, to soapbox out over.

        If you're that opposed to the program, go join the menenites and live the simple life; you'll be able to stop paying taxes all together and then you won't have anything to bitch about since you won't be contributing to government waste!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Sounds like there is still some room for fraud with those states that opted not to participate. If it's to truly be a national database, shouldn't participation by all states be mandatory?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes, I read the article and my grasp of English is such that I did indeed understand it ...but thanks for summarizing!

        ... really though what's to stop titles from being wash into these into and out of these states?
        • 5 Years Ago
        That is called an un-funded mandate.

        The states are having to pay for this, too. Hence why the 5 states have opted out, due to fiscal issues.

        We all know how medicaid is helping states... the federal government mandates a program, and then leaves others to figure out how to pay for it...

        If it is an issue of how to pay for it... it is too expensive. The federal government is living on borrowed money, as are most states.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Again, Autoblog - the "Fed" refers to the Federal Reserve, not the Federal government. Please stop using the terms interchangeably. The "feds" can refer to the Federal govt, but the Fed refers to the FR.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So Bush 1 started it and Obama finally implemented it. Love that federal government.
      • 5 Years Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is great, although I think it should be free for all. This is a service that if it helps prevents fraud will pay for itself. The insurance companies themselves should pitch in to make sure the system is free.

      Also stupid that some states are not participating. I guess all cars with bad title will be sold to those states plus D.C. Do they wonder how much will it cost them investigating fraud claims and how much it will cost their consumers in fraud vis-a-vis the cost of participating in the system?
        • 5 Years Ago
        i agree. us taxpayers shouldnt have to pay for this. but then again, if this "cost" was deferred over to insurance companies and others, then they would probably raise their own rates to compensate... either way, we end up paying one way or another. ugh.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Did vehiclehistory.gov 'borrow' the Netscape logo for their favicon?!
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'd guess they're running the site on Netscape Enterprise Server (it's open source) and didn't replace the default favicon.
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