Your Local DMV: License To Drive, Or License To Ill?

August 17, 2010
For most of us, the lines, the crowds, and the oppressive waits in a visit to the local DMV office are aspects of being a driver we grudgingly accept. Once every year or two (or several years, if we're lucky or deal only with dealerships), we head there to renew our license, take a test, or fill out forms for a vehicle bought or sold.

But, as pointed out by Smart Money magazine, there are some other more harmful aspects of our DMV system, and the way they're often set up by their respective states. Frankly, the dirt dished by the authors makes your local DMV look like a sieve for personal data, a weak point for privacy and vehicle records and, at times, more than a little bumbling.

According to the authors of this list, recently updated but originally published in 2007, your DMV could be allowing accident- and flood-damaged vehicles, as well as VIN-cloning from stolen vehicles, to slip through; letting cars change hands without a title; patching together sometimes-conflicting state laws; aiding identity theft; allowing vanity plates that might leave you a target for crimes; letting convicted drunk drivers back on the road; turning your kids loose, with license in hand, before they're really ready; and issuing fake IDs.

What's more, DMV workers in California and Florida have been arrested for inside jobs, says Smart Money.

The ten tips—or rather, causes for alarm—are borrowed and adapted from "1,001 Things They Won't Tell You: An Insider's Guide to Spending, Saving, and Living Wisely," by Jonathan Dahl and the editors of SmartMoney.

The lesson here? Smart Money doesn't have streamlined advice, but for the vehicle-title issues we'd recommend you follow common-sense rules with your identification and vehicle records, and don't rely only on your DMV to screen out bad vehicles. Use a title-check service such as CarFax or Experian AutoCheck to help spot indications of a forged title, odometer rollback, or flood damage.

[Smart Money]

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