A vehicle's title should show whether it has been in a major accident or had serious flood damage. Dealers, insurers and remarketers all agree on that.
Yet some damaged vehicles return to the market with "washed" titles.
Title washing is the practice of rebuilding wrecked or salvage vehicles and then selling them as if they were never damaged.
Here's how it works: A scam artist buys and fixes a salvage vehicle. He or she retitles it in a state that does not transfer salvage brands from the titles of out-of-state vehicles. Voila: a clean title.
Title washing is profitable. A rebuilt salvage vehicle is worth about 40 percent less than a vehicle of similar make, model and condition that has not had major damage, says Carfax Inc.
An unsuspecting buyer often pays market price for a title-washed vehicle. Such consumers have no way of knowing whether the vehicles were repaired properly -- or even if they are safe to drive.
You may e-mail Arlena Sawyers at [email protected]