In the market for a used car? In addition to checking out all those little mechanical issues like brakes, the engine, etc., you may also consider checking on the history of the car. A history check can include not only prior owners, but whether or not you are about to purchase a stolen vehicle. As a result of a recently concluded lawsuit, it is now easier for everyday people to check the fraud status of a vehicle.
A database called the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) finally became available for public access on January 30, 2009. Apparently Congress had requested that this database be accessible over 16 years ago, but after a lawsuit was filed last year, this request finally became a reality. Various consumer groups had engaged in 16 years of litigation to get the US Department of Justice to make the site accessible. The website is run by the Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance and the FBI.
The information available through NMVTIS includes the vehicle title history, recent odometer reading, the vehicle’s current or prior condition, and historical theft data. The agencies and businesses required to report information to the NMVTIS include state motor vehicle titling agencies, insurance carriers, car recycles, junk/salvage yards, and any business handling a salvaged vehicle. This reported information can help detect title fraud and the retitling of stolen vehicles.
Although the NMVTIS is now accessible by the public, this does come at a price. Access through this database requires first going through a third party administrator for a fee. There are currently two companies that provide access to the NMVTIS database. Searches can typically be performed using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). It doesn’t cost more than a couple dollars for a full NMVTIS report (where available).
When performing a search it is important to keep in mind that currently not all data in the database is complete. As the database just became accessible not all information is updated, and there are several states that are not yet a part of the system. According to the NMVTIS web page, approximately 73% of the vehicle population is currently represented by the system. Furthermore, there are currently only thirteen states actively participating in the system. These states include Washington, Nevada, Arizona, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, and New Hampshire. There are several other states that are currently in development and all insurance carriers, auto recyclers, salvage yards, and junk yards are required to begin reporting data by March 31, 2009. Therefore as time progresses, we can hope to see a more comprehensive system.
In the meantime, there are other public records resources than can be used for vehicle information such as recalls, and vehicle defect complaints. The Free Public Records Directory provides user-friendly access to these and many more public records sites.