By: Gov Auctions | 2 November 2015

Vehicle Title – Check before You Bid

When it comes to car auctions, you have two things to remember. First, more often than not, you are allowed to inspect the vehicle and get as much information as you can about it. Second, you have to perform due diligence since cars are sold as is. Once you have won, you can never return it.

So if you are inspecting the vehicle, make sure that you can ask for its vehicle title.

Why do you need to check the vehicle title, anyway?

  1. You want to know if it is properly maintained. The vehicle history report can be so comprehensive that it can show if it has been inspected, especially prior to a sale, or if it has been repaired, cleaned, or detailed. When you see a lot of these in the report, it means that your vehicle is more or less in a great condition.
  2. Salvage-title vehicles need serious consideration. A car is deemed salvaged since the cost of repairing it is already more than the insurance claim. This vehicle then receives a salvage title. In some states, it also includes stolen cars. Insurance companies pay off the owner if it is theft, but once the car surfaces, it is then issued with the same title.
    • Contrary to popular belief, salvage-title cars are not entirely bad. They are incredibly cheap and may be sold more than 60% their original value. You will even feel the huge discount if the car is a luxury. They can still be covered by insurance too
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    • However, if you are planning to sell it, its resale value may also dip very low, and you cannot enjoy a profit or even recoup your expenses. Moreover, even if you have insurance, the amount you can claim in case you meet an accident is small, and it may not be enough to pay for all the repairs.
  3. It is a good way to know you are dealing with the right car. Let’s face it, some people are willing to do everything to sell a car even it means presenting you with fraudulent documents. You can use the vehicle title to get a history report. Then you can compare data provided by Carfax, National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, or Autocheck, and those given by the auctioneer or the seller.

Check the VIN

It’s easy to change the look of a car, and a person can fake some of its details, but a VIN (vehicle identification number) is unique. It’s assigned to the car forever. To determine if your vehicle title is authentic, run its VIN.

First, find the VIN, which is embedded in its dashboard and within the side door. You may also find it in the door jamb. If it’s unreadable, refer to the title or the insurance policy, if there’s any. Then run it in the state’s motor database or in the abovementioned websites.

A very low price can be very tempting, but also know it can be a red flag. Before you bid, be wise and research extensively.