The State of Texas now offers a program called Title Check that will avoid problems when it comes to used car titles.
Title Check makes it possible to see if a Texas-titled vehicle has any value-limiting issues, such as flood damage or salvage. Monica Blackwell, the TxDMV's title services director, said Title Check will help prospective used car buyers avoid falling victim to fraud. The important caveat is the program is only for used cars and trucks with Texas titles.
Consumers enter the Vehicle Identification Number (more commonly known as the VIN) of the car or truck they are planning to purchase. "If the system responds 'None' you will know the vehicle has a clean Texas title before you buy it," Blackwell said.
This service, which was introduced in June 2011, is important because a used car seller can show a prospective buyer what appears to be a clean title to a used vehicle. This new Title Check program prevents that type of fraud from occurring.
The service is supported by the Texas Independent Automobile Dealer Association, which provides education and promotes ethical standards for used car dealers. "Everyone who buys a used car or truck wants the peace of mind of knowing they are making the right decision," said Danny Langfield, the association's deputy executive director. "We believe Title Check can help to re-assure customers they are dealing with an ethical used car dealer."
Title Check only provides information on vehicles with a Texas title.
Blackwell suggested consumers consider using a commercial vehicle history company that can offer information on out-of-state titles, and having the vehicle inspected by a mechanic before they buy.
Your two best bets are going to be CarFax and AutoCheck. However, remember this caveat: neither are perfect. They are only as good as the information they collect, which is fairly thorough.
Tax assessor-collector Ronnie Canales of Nueces County in Texas said Title Check can benefit every Texas vehicle owner. "When you show up in our tax office with a bad title we can't fix it for you," Canales said.
That's an excellent point that Canales makes because you're not going to show up with a title unless you have already bought the vehicle. By then you are going to be involved in a logistical nightmare trying to get your money back.
Yes, you should always get your money back whenever title fraud like this is involved. It's a massive demonstration of illicit character to attempt title fraud, which most likely means there are other problems with the vehicle being sold. Don't keep the vehicle.
Another concern is Texas law is not that clear on what constitutes a salvage vehicle, which can further complicate the whole process. As I cover in the Texas Salvage Title page"There is no set percentage of damage before a vehicle can receive a salvage title. In effect, a vehicle is considered salvage when repair costs, not including repainting, exceed the vehicle's value at the moment before the damage. What this all means is the older your car, the more likely it can be considered salvage in the event of an accident."
For more information on these services, go to TxDMV.gov.