New Law "Takes the Guesswork" Out of Buying a Used Car

The law takes effect in California on July 1

By Dave Douglass and Vikki Vargas
|  Saturday, Jun 30, 2012  |  Updated 12:32 AM PDT
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California is about to give used car buyers greater protections than any other state in the country with a new law that goes into effect Sunday. Anyone who sells a used car will have to first register the car in a national database to make it easier for buyers to access a car's history. Vikki Vargas reports from Costa Mesa for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on June 29, 2012.

Vikki Vargas

California is about to give used car buyers greater protections than any other state in the country with a new law that goes into effect Sunday. Anyone who sells a used car will have to first register the car in a national database to make it easier for buyers to access a car's history. Vikki Vargas reports from Costa Mesa for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on June 29, 2012.

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Californians will receive unprecedented protection when buying a used car after a new state law goes into effect July 1.

The law, authored by State Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield from the San Fernando Valley, will force anyone who sells a used vehicle in California to disclose everything about it by registering it in a national database.

In California, that means 800,000 cars per year will now be part of the federally mandated database, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), which will be maintained by the Department of Justice.

Insurers, junk and salvage yards, and state motor vehicle departments will be required to report updated title information to that database everyone 30 days.

Backers of AB 1215 contend that requiring new car dealers to user electronic vehicle registration for all their car sales will have the state more than $9 million annually by reducing costs at local DMVs.

That, they say, will expedite the process of getting drivers’ their permanent license plates – shaving the wait time from six months to about one.

"If I'm going to get a car, I want to see the Carfax instead of getting in it and I like it, then a week later, kaput," said car buyer Alfred Lovett, "I think (the new law) is a good idea."

After July 1, dealers will have to put a large red warning sticker on any used car they sell that's been flagged in the database as a "junk,” "salvage" or "flood" vehicle.

Vehicles destroyed in accidents or floods are sometimes left for salvage by insurance companies and then sold out of state, officials said, explaining part of the impetus for the law.

“No other state can match California’s built-in protections” Peter Welch, president of the California New Car Dealers Association, said in a statement. “Buying a car is a financial commitment and, by eliminating a lot of guesswork, this new law will provide peace of mind for car buyers and dealers alike.”

Orange Coast general manager Joel Nelson said dealers can use the national system to ensure that trade-ins are not lemons.

"It will have a trigger, like in other words, if there's a problem with the car, it will state what the problem was," Nelson said. It will give "the whole history of the car."

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