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JUNKER KEEPER: Federal database tracks totaled vehicles, clunkers

Thu, 15 Oct 2009 00:00:00 -0700

First, it was the hurricane-damaged used cars flooding the market. Now, it’s the clunkers turned in--and supposedly junked--as part of the federal Cars Allowance Rebate System “cash for clunkers” program.

Following Hurricane Katrina, cars declared as total losses in one state were able to get clean titles in other states and were resold to unsuspecting consumers. Clunker junkers could also find their way back onto the used-car market through similar surreptitious means.

In response, the federal government mandated the creation of the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System to track totaled vehicles and prevent their resale. So far, 28 state motor-vehicle agencies participate or contribute to NMVTIS, and 11 others are working toward participation. All states are required to be fully participating by Jan. 1, 2010.

Through NMVTIS, used-car shoppers have access to vehicle-history reports via an electronic database at www.vehiclehistory. gov. The database contains information on cars from insurance carriers, junkyards and salvage yards. The NMVTIS is the sole repository for clunker data.

The information, aggregated by two providers, isn’t free, but it’s not expensive. Auto Data Direct charges $2.50 for a report that includes title, junk, salvage, insurance and detailed vehicle info. CARCO Group charges $2.25 for current state title and brand, junk, salvage and insurance info, or $3.50 for a complete title history.

By Angie Favot