It's finally here; by January 1 of this year, all states were required to be fully participating in the Anti-Car Theft Act and associated regulations. The fruits of the effort are on offer at www.vehiclehistory.gov, in a site that's intended as a base for car shoppers, car dealers, insurers, and law enforcement officials.
Instead of making do with a patchwork of different state databases—some of which aren't well organized or easily accessed—the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) database will help spot fraudulent titles for vehicles that have been stolen, or vehicles that have been considered totaled (with a salvage or flood title) in one state, then given a normal title in another state—an increasingly common scam.
NMVTIS is managed by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and overseen by the U.S. Department of Justice.
According to the program, more than 7,500 insurance carriers, auto recyclers, and junk yards are now reporting regularly to the program. Since the program has been phased in, Virginia has seen a 17-percent decrease in motor vehicle thefts, while Arizona is having a 99-percent recovery rate for those vehicles identified as stolen. Overall, the program will save up to $11 billion in fraud every year, according to the Justice Department.
The Act includes new reporting requirements for salvage yards and insurance companies, in addition to the individual states. Vehicles that are deemed a total loss by insurers must all be reported, regardless of age.
To check on a vehicle title, consumers will need to go to one of two official data providers—Auto Data Direct and CARCO Group. The new fee-for-service system is funded through user fees and isn't dependent on federal funds, so it will cost $2 to $4 per report. The system is a long time coming—Congress voted to establish it back in 1992.
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The site doesn't provide a vehicle history report like you would get from Carfax or Experian AutoCheck, such as individual accidents and smaller insurance claims, auction data, or the actual ownership history, but it could become an important—and hopefully more foolproof—official check.