Bryan Cohen May 16, 2013, 6:45pm

NEWARK (Legal Newsline) -- New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa on Wednesday warned consumers in the market for a used vehicle to check an online database that lists all vehicles issued flood or salvage titles since Superstorm Sandy.

The leaders of the Division of Consumer Affairs and the State Motor Vehicle Commission urged prospective buyers to check the online database before making a purchase. The database contains information on close to 31,000 vehicles.

While it is not illegal to sell a vehicle with a flood or salvage title, the vehicle must meet specific requirements to make sure the vehicle's status is disclosed to possible buyers.

"Damage sustained by vehicles must be disclosed to prospective buyers," Chiesa said in a statement. "We will hold car dealers accountable for violating our Consumer Fraud Act if they fail to make such disclosures."

If a motor vehicle has suffered sufficient damage to make it economically impractical to repair or it has been rendered a total loss by an insurance company, the person who possesses the certificate of ownership must surrender the title to the MVC. At that time, the MVC will issue a salvage title.

Vehicles with a salvage title are deemed unfit for New Jersey public highways except for the purpose of going to and from an inspection appointment at an MVC facility.

It is against the law to sell or transfer the ownership of a salvage motor vehicle without disclosing the salvage title unless the vehicle is repaired and inspected by the MVC.

Owners of flood-damaged vehicles must place the phrase "flood vehicle" on the vehicle's title, assignment of certificate of ownership or manufacturer's statement of origin.

The database enables users to enter the vehicle identification number of each vehicle and check to see whether a salvage or flood title was issued.

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