The Nova Scotia government has launched an investigation into how a heavily damaged vehicle was sold to a Dartmouth man without the registration reflecting the damage.

Rob Carroll, who lives in Dartmouth, bought the truck in January. Earlier this month, he and his wife approached a dealership to trade it in and learned their vehicle had been in two significant accidents in the past two years.

"They appraised it at about $7,800 and they said they'd have to do a CarProof report," Carroll told CBC News on Thursday.

"When the CarProof report came back, we found out it had been salvaged."

The CarProof vehicle history report showed the truck had been in two accidents. The first occurred in September 2012 and caused more than $5,400 in damage. The second and more serious accident occurred in February 2013 and caused more than $11,000 worth of damage.

With that knowledge, the dealership valued the truck at just $2,000.

Tracy Barron, a spokesperson with Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, said both accidents should have been reported to the department so the truck's registration information could be updated.

Rebuilt truck

The registration on this truck did not show it had been in two previous accidents. (Yvonne Colbert)

"The vehicle registration was indeed incorrect when the vehicle was purchased by Mr. Carroll and it has since been corrected," Barron wrote in an email to CBC News.

According to the Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations website, the province belongs to a Canada-wide database that tracks all wrecked vehicles. As soon as a vehicle has been reported to be in a major accident, that information is kept on file.

For damaged vehicles, permits and registration certificates can be branded as non-repairable, salvage or rebuilt.

Truck rebranded after consumer complaint

A non-repairable vehicle is one that has been so badly damaged that it cannot be put back on the road. It must be discarded or sold as scrap or for parts and no plates or permits will ever be issued. 

A vehicle branded salvage is one that is so badly damaged that the cost of properly repairing it is greater than the fair market value of the car at the time the damage was done. Unless the vehicle is properly repaired and issued a certificate by a licensed mechanic, no permit or plates will be issued.

Finally, if a vehicle previously branded as salvage has been properly repaired and a certificate provided, it will be branded rebuilt and permits and plates can be issued.

But, the rebuilt label must stay with the vehicle so any subsequent owners know that at some point, it suffered serious damage.

The truck that Carroll bought should have been branded as rebuilt, but it was not.

Barron said the department receives the initial information from the insurance industry to brand the vehicles and owners are obligated by law to report any accident above $2,000 so it can be flagged on the vehicle registration.

"We do not know at this point how it could have happened that the rebuilt branding was not reflected on the vehicle registration. Now that it has been brought to our attention, we are investigating," she wrote.

"We encourage buyers of used cars to review the commercial vehicle information package available through the internet to confirm the history of a vehicle."

Carroll ended up returning the truck to Hartlen Auto Sales Ltd. in Lower Sackville, where he bought it. 

The owner of Hartlen Auto Sales declined an interview with CBC News and said he bought the truck in late December or early January and had no knowledge of the accidents when he sold it.

Carroll has since gone to Service Nova Scotia to change the truck's registration and have it branded as rebuilt.

He said people should pay a fee and get a vehicle report before buying a used vehicle.