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California To Debut Red Badge Of Shame For Salvage Cars

Posted in Car Buying, News by Kurt Ernst | October 1st, 2011 | 2 Responses |

For sale, one owner, low miles... Image: Flickr user Chris Waits

If you buy a used car from a dealer, how do you know the car hasn’t been through a flood, or hasn’t been pieced together from various donor cars? Generally speaking, unless you research the VIN in advance, there’s no way of knowing whether or not you’re buying a salvaged vehicle. Don’t expect dealers to be up front about this, since salvage vehicles often sell for thousands less than ordinary used cars. In some states, you may not even be able to insure a salvaged vehicle, so who needs the hassle of trying to return a used car to an unscrupulous dealer?

Since new cars can just as easily be flood damaged, there’s a risk here, too. The bottom line is this: no dealer in his right mind is going to give away profit, so if a deal sounds too good to be true, there’s probably a reason behind it.

Starting next July, California car dealers will be the first in the country required to post a warning sticker on any vehicle with a salvage title. The sticker, appropriately red in color, will advise consumers that the vehicle has been flagged in the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System database as “junked,” “salvage,” or “flood.”

The new law also requires California car dealer to adopt electronic vehicle registration, instead of the traditional paperwork filed when a car is purchased. The bad news for California consumers is that car dealer can raise fees to cover the added expense of electronic registration, but the fee is capped at $80. Previously, California had allowed dealers to charge $55 for sales and $45 for leases, so even the worst-case scenario is just a $35 increase. The good news? The wait for license plates in California will drop to 30 days, instead of up to 6 months under the current system.

Source: Automotive News (subscription required)

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2 Responses

  1. Keith says:

    California will not be the first to affix a warning sticker to a salvage car. My current daily driver is a salvage vechile I bought in 2007. I had to take it to a special inspection done by the state ploice before I could register it. At that inspection after everything checked out the New Hampshire State Police placed a sticker on the drivers door jamb stating the vechile was a salvage/rebuilt. That sticker also has the ussual “unlawful to remove” notation.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      @Keith, thanks for the info. Unless I’m misunderstanding it, the CA sticker goes on the windshield of the car, similar to an old inspection sticker.

      Just out of curiosity, what vehicle did you buy salvage? Did you know why it had a salvage title before buying it?