Reader's View: Car buyers deserve to know damage history
When cars are involved in accidents or floods, consumers in Duluth and throughout the state expect titling and branding laws to protect their safety and welfare — and their wallets — by properly documenting prior damage. While most states require vehicles that have been declared as total losses by insurers to be branded as salvage vehicles, a handful of states, including Minnesota, exempt vehicles 6 years old or older or worth less than $9,000 from salvage branding.
If a previously damaged but unbranded vehicle is cosmetically repaired and offered for sale, an unsuspecting customer may end up purchasing a severely damaged vehicle with a clean title that gives no indication of past damage. When this happens, the consumer loses, and the seller is positioned to receive much more than the car is actually worth as a result of the undisclosed damage history. The consumer may find that the vehicle is unsafe, may encounter unanticipated repair costs, or may find that the resale value or insurance recovery values are greatly diminished.
Vehicles on the road today average more than 11 years old, so many badly damaged but older vehicles go without salvage branding. Legislation making its way through the Minnesota Legislature would remove this dangerous loophole by ensuring that all used-car customers are provided the critical information that a salvage brand brings, regardless of whether they are in the market for a newer, more expensive used vehicle or can only afford one that is older or less pricey. I urge lawmakers to pass it.
Patrick Garrity, Stillwater, Minnesota
The writer is president of the Automotive Recyclers of Minnesota and the owner of Sharp Auto Parts in Stillwater.