Within six months, used-car shoppers will be able to access a national database of cars reported stolen or damaged by crashes, fires and hurricanes, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Advocates say this information should help improve safety and curtail automobile fraud.
A federal judge in California has ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to have the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, created by Congress almost 16 years ago, up and running by March 31, 2009.
Every month, insurance companies, junkyards and salvage companies in all states will be required to submit the VIN numbers and other information about cars that were damaged, flooded or stolen. State motor vehicle departments can charge consumers to access the data, but advocates say the fees should be as little as 50 cents a car.
The problem was that title laws aren’t the same in every state. And prior to this national database, state title databases were not connected. So a car wrecked or damaged in a flood could have a clean title that doesn’t reflect its past, if it was titled in another state with lenient laws. This database could also help deter “VIN cloning” rings, where thieves steal a car and swap its real identification number with a "clone" copied from another vehicle.