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I remember hearing about the problem after Hurricane Floyd and then again after Hurricane Katrina. We’re bound to see it again in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The problem is flooded cars being dried out, detailed and then sold as used cars without mention of the flooding.

It’s an important issue because severe water damage can wreak havoc on a vehicle’s electrical system – including air bag sensors. Fortunately there is a national vehicle history system that can help you identify previously flooded vehicles.

The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) was created by federal law. It is the only publicly available system that requires all insurance carriers, salvage yards, auto recyclers and states to report vehicle history data.

According to Denise E. O’Donnell, the Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, 87% of the country’s Department of Motor Vehicle data is represented in the system. You can purchase a vehicle history report at

A NMVTIS vehicle history report provides information on the five key indicators associated with preventing vehicle-related fraud and theft:

  • Current state of title and last title date;
  • Brand history, a descriptive label assigned by states to indicate a vehicle’s current or prior state—for example: “junk,” “salvage,” “flood;”
  • Odometer reading;
  • Total loss history; and
  • Salvage history.

The report also helps consumers verify the validity of the title to prevent fraud and identify vehicles that are potentially unsafe. If a vehicle has a brand, total loss, or salvage history, then the consumer is warned that the vehicle may be unsafe. A NMVTIS vehicle history report does not include vehicle repair histories, recall information, and other care and maintenance data available in alternative vehicle history reports.

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