No license plate may mean a black-market vehicle sale


NO, THAT PLATE WASN’T STOLEN: Marc Powell, executive director of the New Mexico Independent Automobile Dealers Association, says that may be a common excuse when drivers get pulled over, but it’s an unlikely one when it comes to the thousands of vehicles driving around New Mexico without proof or registration, license plates or paper tags.

After the June 6 column reported the Albuquerque Police Department has issued 1,772 tickets so far this year for no registration and 1,014 for not displaying a license plate/paper tag, and 2,062 registration and 1,266 license plate tickets last year, Powell reached out. He says “our research indicates the majority of unplated vehicles are the result of private sales, in particular black-market sales by illegal street dealers. Your article on the number of tickets for unplated/unregistered vehicles really drives home the scale of the problem.”

It makes a kind of criminal play-the-lottery sense: with a limited number of law enforcement officers, why pay the tax, title and license fees unless you have to? Those can run well over $1,000 since Powell says MVD bases the tax on the vehicle’s value – even if you claim you sold it for $1. Meanwhile, not registering a vehicle is just a $50 ticket.


To address the scams, Powell says he is working with state Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, on legislation for the 2023 session. He says “the current system allows 30 days between purchase and title transfer – allowing buyers to avoid having legally mandated insurance and allowing a growing number of vehicles to never be properly titled, registered and insured.”

The black market angle comes in, Powell explains, when “unsuspecting buyers are fleeced in non-dealer sales. … Consumers save diligently to buy what appears to be a good vehicle and routinely find after purchase that the vehicle has a branded title (i.e. a salvage, rebuilt, odometer rollback or lemon title), is salvaged or stolen, or has serious mechanical/electrical issues. And the sellers of these problem vehicles routinely do not own the vehicles and sell more than the allowed four per year, meaning they are black-market dealers taking advantage of consumers.”

The proposed legislation would require the seller as well as the buyer to show up at an MVD office with the vehicle, vehicle title, current registration, current insurance and new insurance. In addition to collecting the TTL fees, MVD would check to see if the vehicle is stolen/liened, do a VIN inspection and a branded title search and validate that the current title and registration are in name of person selling vehicle or ensure an open-title sale is legit.

Powell says the upsides of doing things this way include ensuring the safety of consumers and legitimacy of sellers by meeting at an MVD, protecting buyers from purchasing stolen or salvaged vehicles or getting stuck with unpaid open title taxes and fees, and getting vehicles properly titled, registered and insured on the day of sale.

Meanwhile, APD is on pace to more than double last year’s tickets for no registration/license plate.

PASEO/EAGLE RANCH A MINEFIELD: That’s how several readers are describing the rough pavement at this intersection.

Jan K. emails both eastbound and westbound have “significant patches of missing asphalt across all lanes of traffic, make navigating the rough terrain appear as if the driver is impaired. It also is bad on tires.” And Bill Blackler asks in an email when it will be repaved as “both the eastbound and westbound lanes of Paseo on the east side of Eagle Ranch are very rough and in need of repair.”

Next month.

Kim Gallegos of the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s District 3 Office here in Albuquerque says “the paving of the intersection at PDN and Eagle Ranch will be completed in mid to late July.”

PASEO/WYOMING ON THE RADAR: Jan also shares that “approaching the intersection of Wyoming Boulevard at Paseo, especially eastbound, where the asphalt meets concrete there is such warping of asphalt that it is quite jarring when rolling over them at 55 mph, or when hitting the brakes if the light turns red for Paseo drivers. Can the road crew grade down the “speed bumps” across the identified areas?”

Kim says “I’ll mention it and have our engineers go and out and take a look.”

A TIGHT TURN INTO TOPGOLF: Dan Beckley asks in an email “why isn’t there a turning bay on the southbound frontage road” into Topgolf? The speed limit on the frontage road is 45 mph, and the speed needed to execute the 180-degree turn needed to enter their parking lot makes for an unsafe slowdown for southbound traffic.”

NMDOT traffic engineer Nancy Perea says “the developer was responsible for building the access from the frontage road. The current access design was due to the available right-of-way and challenging site topography.”

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858;; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.


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