Federal Database for Car History
Written by Sharon K. Campbell

Did you know one existed? Long overdue, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) went live early 2009. The federal database may be accessed by going to www.vehiclehistory.gov.

NMVTIS was created to prevent the introduction or reintroduction of stolen motor vehicles into interstate commerce, protect states and consumers from fraud, reduce the use of stolen vehicles for illicit purposes including the funding of criminal enterprises and provide consumers protection from unsafe vehicles.

NMVTIS is the only vehicle history database in the nation to which all states, insurance carriers and junk and salvage yards are required by federal law to report. Federal law also requires all insurance companies, all junk and salvage yards in the U.S. to report their salvage and total loss vehicles to NMVTIS.

What information is available from a NMVTIS report?

  1. Current State of Title and last title date
  2. Any brand history assigned to a vehicle and date applied
  3. Theft history data (if any)
  4. Odometer reading
  5. Total loss history
  6. Salvage history

Unlike information provided from private vehicle history databases, NMVTIS data is provided based on federal legal requirements and therefore, reduces risk to a searching agency because of its completeness and accuracy.

Each state is required to perform an instant title verification before issuing a certificate of title for a vehicle that an individual or entity is bringing into the state. Curiously, although required by law to do so, according to information posted on the website, Texas is participating by providing data only and does not make any inquiries. As one of the largest states in the country, Texas’ lack of full participation certainly makes the database much less complete. Perhaps this issue is something we should address with our congressional representatives and senators.

As can be seen from the status of Texas’ involvement, consumers should be aware that there will be gaps until all states are fully reporting. Additionally, different states have different definitions and requirements for “salvage” and “branded” and “total loss.” There is no uniform definition for those and other related terms. The information in a NMVTIS report is not all the information that is available in a state’s vehicle database. For a complete history, a report from both NMVTIS and your state’s vehicle history database is recommended. For Texas, check http://www.txdmv.gov/protection/buying_vehicle/title_check.htm.

The biggest gap which remains in the database is the lack of a requirement that ALL insurance claims be available, not just total loss. All insurance claim history information is certainly available to all insurance companies , via the CLUE database, but they do not provide the car-buying consumer similar access to this information, no matter how critical to safety such information may be. Contrary to the practice in the United States, insurance companies do provide all their damage claims data in CANADA to CarProof, a CarFax competitor.

A word about private vehicle history reports. Please do not make the mistake of thinking that if you obtain a clean CarFax (for example) history report, you are in the clear. Most private vehicle history databases, including CarFax, are not comprehensive and are not current. I am aware of many instances when car dealers offer a copy of a clean CarFax report to a potential buyer, knowing the report is incomplete, the customer buys the car and learns six months later that the CarFax report now shows the car was involved in an accident on a date prior to the purchase. Car dealers are well aware of this defect in private vehicle history reports. It is highly recommended that you have a reputable mechanic inspect any used car you are contemplating purchasing.

Sharon K. Campbell, Attorney at Law
3500 Oak Lawn Ave
Suite 110
Dallas, Texas 75219

Phone: 214-351-3260
Fax: 214-443-6055
Email: sharon@dallasconsumerattorney.com

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