17 years after Congress ordered one created, a free national used car database, called the National Vehicle Title Information System, may finally be in the works.
Each wrecked car has an unhappy story to tell. Unhappy to the previous owner. And maybe unhappy for the next owner as well. Because you might unwittingly buy a used car that was salvaged, totaled, flooded or had the odometer rolled back. That’s why you should always do a title check before you buy any used car.
The best way to do that would be with a national title database, one that would tell you if that shiny car you see on the lot has spent a lot of time in the shop. That’s why Uncle Sam ordered one to be created back in 1992, and now 17 years later it’s here.
Why the delay? According to one consumer group Money Talks talked to, some states are against providing free information to a national database because they now sell it to companies like CarFax.
But thanks partially to lawsuits by consumer groups, the database is here, but still not complete. When Money Talks researched this story, 14 states still weren’t participating.
And it’s not free: when we looked up a title on one of the participating services, we found that it would cost $2.50 to get it… better than the $30 commercial services charge, but then again, those services do get information from all 50 states.
Bottom line? This national database was a great idea and we deserve to have it. But it needs to be complete. Sooner or later all the states should be on board, but it may take more lawsuits by consumer groups (or perhaps stories like this) to steer it into the fast lane.
For more information, check out the government’s web site for the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.