Purchasing or Selling Autos

Purchasing a Used Vehicle  

  • Stolen or Wrecked.  A federal database called the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System helps consumers learn whether the used automobile they are interested in buying has ever been stolen or wrecked.  View http://nmvtis.gov.   Type in a car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) to check on a used car’s record.  States, salvage yards and insurance companies are required to submit information so consumers can access information on a car’s past history—whether it was damaged in a flood, rebuilt after a wreck, or stolen.  Law enforcement is also able to tap into this information to help combat auto theft or fraud. 

  • Safety Recalls.  Starting August 14, 2013, U.S. consumers will be able to search a giant database to find out if their cars or motorcycles have been recalled and if the vehicles have been fixed.  Only about 70% of recalled vehicles are taken to dealers for repairs, leaving thousands of cars on the road with potentially critical safety flaws.  The database will let car owners search for free to see if they missed a recall notice, and used car shoppers will be able to see if all recall work has been done on cars they want to buy. 

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency that regulates auto safety, will require major auto and motorcycle makers to give customers online access to data so it can be searched by vehicle identification number. 

    Some automakers already offer the database searches.  Those that do not will have to make the data available by August 14, 2013.  The NHTSA's website will also provide the data:  http://www.safercar.gov

    The searches will give people peace of mind knowing that the vehicle they own, or that they are thinking of buying, is safe.   (David Strickland, NHTSA Administrator, Associated Press, August 15, 2013) 
  • Air Bag Recalls.  Air bags should be replaced with new ones after they have deployed in a wreck.  The Takata company uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion and fill air bags quickly in a crash.  But the chemical can deteriorate when exposed to high humidity and temperatures and burn too fast, blowing apart a metal canister.  That can hurl hot shrapnel into unsuspecting drivers and passengers.  Find out if the air bags have been used or removed, as well as car recalls:

    Government website:  Go to http://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls and key in your 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN).  It can be found on your registration and is stamped on the driver's side dashboard.  Automakers and the government say the recall repairs should be done as soon as possible.  (Takata recalls, up to 69 million inflators in 42 million vehicles affected to date," by Tom Krisher, Associated Press, Jan. 19, 2018)

    Free App: http://www.mycarfax.com.  Enter a license plate number and the app will bring up any recalls for that specific vehicle.  http://carfax.com

  • Flood Vehicles.  Beware of buying vehicles which have been in a flood.  With considerable floods around the country, about half of those cars are cleaned up and sold on used car lots.  Buyers beware.  These cars may be dangerous to drive, and the corrosion continues to creep inside critical components and result in expensive repairs.  Look for indications that the car may have been under water.  If you are suspicious, have the car looked at by a mechanic before making a purchase. 

    • Look for rust and corrosion on the steering column, door hinges, or under the seats and carpet.
    • Check for a musty smell of mold inside the car. 
    • Look for condensation in light covers. 
    • Look into hard-to-get-to places for evidence of dirt left behind.
    • Check the vehicle's history report through Carfax. 
    • Ask a mechanic to conduct a pre-purchase inspection.
Source:  "How to Avoid Flood Damaged Cars" at http://www.carfax.com/guides/buying-used/things-to-avoid/flood-damage.

Selling a Used Vehicle

  • Department of Licensing.  If you sell a vehicle, make sure that you report the sale to the Department of Licensing. 

  • If you sell a vehicle, but fail to follow through with the change of registration, you will be held accountable for citations issued to that vehicle, which could inhibit your ability to renew your license.  

What You Can Do
  • To determine if a car has been “recalled for a defect,” search various databases like http://www.ConsumerReports.org and government sites.  There is no way to know that a NEW car will not be recalled at some time.