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Database Provides Information on 31,000 Flood and Salvage-Titled Vehicles

The state urges customers to consult the database before buying a car

The State Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) and Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) are urging all customers to consult their database of flood and salvage-titled vehicles before purchasing a car.

That database now provides information on 31,000 such vehicles, the State MVC announced on Wednesday.

It isn't illegal to sell vehicles with flood or salvaged titles. However, there are specific requirements that ensure potential purchasers are aware of the status of such vehicles, according to the MVC.

“Damage sustained by vehicles must be disclosed to prospective buyers,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said. “We will hold car dealers accountable for violating our Consumer Fraud Act if they fail to make such disclosures.”

The database was established in January and lists all flood or salvaged titles since Superstorm Sandy bombarded New Jersey on Oct. 29 of last year. Customers can look up vehicles in the database using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

“The Motor Vehicle Commission and the Division of Consumer Affairs have been updating the online database regularly since its inception," MVC Chair and Chief Administrator Raymond P. Martinez said. "We want the public to have up-to-date information readily available so they can easily perform their due diligence before making a buying decision."

Owners of motor vehicles that have been rendered economically impractical to repair or a total loss by an insurer are required by law to surrender their titles to the MVC, which then issues a salvage title for the vehicle.

It is illegal to sell or transfer a salvage title unless the vehicle is repaired and inspected by the MVC.

It is illegal to drive a salvaged vehicle on the state's highways, unless the car is going to and from an inspection.

Owners of vehicles that have been flooded but not rendered economically impractical to repair or a total loss by an insurer must label the status as "flood vehicle" on the title or the manufacturer's statement of origin. All titles issued thereafter must also be labeled as such. Otherwise, the vehicle can't be registered.

“This database is another way that we’re empowering consumers and aiding them in the marketplace,” State Division of Consumer Affairs Director Eric T. Kanefsky said.  “Just as importantly, we encourage consumers to file complaints with us if they believe a car dealer is not disclosing that a vehicle offered for sale has sustained storm damage.”

Martinez noted customers should make sure a dealership is licensed by the MVC, as legally required. The DCA can provide information on past action it has taken against a dealership, and if customers have filed complaints about that dealership.

Additionally, the MVC and the DCA warn customers to check the title history of vehicles, and be cautious vehicles that have been titled multiple times over a short period; obtain a vehicle history report from the dealer or a reputable source; and contact the insurance company listed on the title for vehicle information.

Customers should ask their mechanic to perform a pre-purchase inspection of the vehicle for the following signs of damage caused by flooding:

  • A musty or moldy smell or the strong scent of a deodorizer all over the car;
  • Rust on metal parts where water would not normally touch;
  • Water-stained upholstery or water damage on the door panels or seat belts; and
  • Mildew, silt or debris in areas around the engine compartment, under the carpeting or in the trunk.

Customers who suspect they may have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other type of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.

Joe B May 16, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Most of these cars will unfortunately have their titles 'washed' out of state and then brought back as non flood or non salvage. It is too easy to beat the system. Have the car inspected and look for new carpet, coroded electric, new door seals or seats. All the usual flood tell tales - remember water kills electric systems and they are VERY expensive to replace in cars (not to mention what happens when water mixes with oll and our friend; mold. Cheaper than KBB = future problems.
Jo Amesco May 19, 2013 at 03:15 PM
You should see the new inventory of cars on rt 9, rt 88 and rt 37.. All these dealers out to make a quick buck. They buy the flood cars at auction, transfer the title around - by the time you see it ( car fax) - everything looks good.. Until months later you find you that you got scammed ! Car dealers don't sell cars- they sell you what you can afford at the time. Car dealers know that buyers are payment shoppers only. Car dealers are banking on that you are less educated to understand what your buying due to your credit and down payment. Car dealers will as ways sell you the "what if" talk.. To hook a payment for the next 4-6years. Once your a buyer - your gone, anything else,, it's 5-20K with Attorny fees.. Maybe you'll win? Maybe you won't? Are you educated, have job stability of 5+yrs. and a credit score over 750? Your profile has everything to do with the case.. Isn't that how the car dealer - "hooked you in the first place?"
Jo Amesco May 19, 2013 at 03:23 PM
There was a guy in his 50's running around brick - name began with an R?( I don't want to say the wrong name here - but, we did know that it began with an R ) I think? He bragged at the local bars - that he was hooking the flood cars all over Brick and Toms River - how he sold them at auctions and dealers for $5000.00 each. ( He sold 100's of cars) I guess when someone makes big bucks, no one cares how they do it.. As long as they look good on paper.. And to their family and friends.. Status quoe.. I guess.. Yet, we can argue.. He's a wholeseller.. He buys in bulk to resale. He got paid by the insurance company to do a job. He bought and sold in bulk. Perhaps it was the car dealers choice to clean them and resell them? Who's a wrong or fault here ? Or is it just business only as a wholeseller?
CRMOM3 May 19, 2013 at 09:57 PM
Berkeley twp. Please explain why the SHAKLEE reporthas been hidden from the public & why hasn't it been reffered to the OCPO YET.
foggyworld May 21, 2013 at 01:30 AM
Could someone explain what this report is all about? Who authored it? Who paid for it? When was it written? And does it really apply to the question of today's police departmental behavior? And why is it a secret anyway?

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