Written by Ciaran Kelly
for The Kelly Report
In the first of a four part series, Ciaran Kelly will help expats avoid the pitfalls and pratfalls of buying a used car in CR.
Today´s issue: how to determine if a car is legal or not.
Legal Security of Used Cars
According to the Dopravni Inspecktorat (Czech traffic police), fraud involving used cars is up 70% this year alone. More than 500,000 cars on Czech roads today are either reported as stolen or are illegal (court liens, illegal docs or unpaid lease contracts).
Thanks to EU and Shengen rules, now it is easy to import unchecked, un-controlled cars into CR. The situation is getting so bad, a bill is now before parliament in order to place new restriction on car importers.
Here are some of the facts one should know about used cars in CR:
Police will seize cars, even with correct / legal documents in the following cases:
–VIN, chassis or engine numbers have been changed or modified
–Spare parts used on the car are reported as stolen
–If a crime was committed using the car in the past
–Any court case in which one of the two sides claims the car as their property
–To assist court executors or bailiffs in a live case.
Here are some pointers on how to determine if a car is “legal” in the CR:
–Actual year of production can be found in codes all over the car… for example, wind screen, side windows, seat belts, seats, plastic parts, units, ABS, A/C , alternator and fluid tanks. The numbers should match exactly, if not, the car has either undergone repairs or worse.
–VIN code (vehicle identification number): This is the birth number of the car. The VIN code must agree with the registration book (in Czech called the Velky Technicak). The VIN is usually embossed in the engine compartment, on a partition between the motor and the car frame, and also on the floor of the trunk (boot). It is quite easy to determine if the number has been re-welded, carved into or changed. If the VIN has been in any way altered, the car is not legal (hint: use a small hand mirror to look UNDER the VIN code…if it has been altered or changed, you will easily spot the marks under the number plate). Most cars now have a third VIN under the front windscreen, and these are very very difficult to replace or to change.
–Remember, the engine type and VIN must both be entered on the car docs and the registration book (velky technicak) for every car since 2001. There are no legal exceptions to this law. If you find so much as one number amiss, do not purchase that car. It is illegal.
–Verification of Car Origin:
This is the most important and complex procedure. Sorry to inform you, Dear Reader, but a single individual has no chance at all. It is very risky to buy a car on the street, be it through personal ads, subdealers, importers or unprofessional used car dealers—none of whom will guarantee car origin. You will need professional help who can guarantee the origin for you.
FYI Car origin includes: Dopravni Inspektorat registration, termination of registration, SPZ (license plates), date and history of all previous owners and registration, year of production and guarantee car is never reported as stolen. It is quite a list, and alas, no short cuts exist to find this info.
This is important considering the CR has an average of 25,000 stolen cars each year since accession in to EU. Some of the stolen cars go to chop shops for spare parts, some go abroad, but most are re-sold in CR (to the tune of 4 to 8 billion kc per annum)
Car origin should always be performed for each and every car imported into CR and every car that does not have the original registration
So who can you turn to to provide this service?
Professional used car dealers, Cebia and SOVA.
They all have Interpol contacts, contacts with all leasing companies (200 currently in CR) and direct access to police records at DI for VIN registrations. They also can measure paint thickness (stolen cars are often repainted).
What can YOU do?
–You can check any car in the database of the Ministry of Interior CR, go to www.mvcr.cz
You can obtain their information via SPZ, motor number, VIN or the chassis number.
WARNING! This is only for car registered since 2004 and cars from CR. This will not carry any info for any imported vehicles from any year.
Both of whom have a great many contacts within the used car industry, and exist as customer service / consumer advocates.
Even with the aid of the above mentioned pages, you are not able to determine the following:
—Cars with an unpaid lease…well, I guess you can try calling all 200 leasing companies in CR to get this info.
—Court Liens, if a car has this, it will be taken away from you without compensation and you must try to sue the seller in court, a long and costly process.
—Bankruptcies, court executors in bankruptcy cases do have the legal right to take cars that are part of a bankruptcy case, even after the car has been re-sold.
—Stolen cars, police will seize any car that is reported as stolen, this makes all imported cars very suspect, especially if the car does not have original registration.
—Divorce cases, this is no joke, 55% of all marriages in CR end up in court, and very often one partner will sell a car before the case is judged. These cars do get seized and then you must sue the offending divorcee to recoup your loses (if successful, this can be a 1-3 year process).
One would think that hiring a lawyer is necessary in order to buy a “clean” car, but this is not the case. Many people find it easiest to go to professional and credible used car dealers. All of whom have one thing in common, they will put in writing, in your sales contract, that they guarantee the legal history of the car.