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)