What is Car Title Washing and How to Avoid Buying a Totaled Vehicle?


There are several states that frequently suffer hurricanes and floods, which can result in many wrecked and majorly damaged vehicles. This flood and hurricane factor serves as an opportunity for unscrupulous auto dealers or car sellers to practice title washing. Title washing is a crucial concern for car buyers. Let’s see how it works. After a major disaster when nearly all the cars are flood-damaged or wrecked, thousands of car owners turn to their insurance companies to make claims. The insurance companies pay off the car loans can’t take the cars back, at the same time titling them as “totals.” All the cars, irrespective of the fact they are new, old or used, undergo this process. This title is otherwise called “salvage title.” Cars are usually considered totaled when they are so damaged that the repair cost exceeds the car’s market value. When water goes deep into the car and causes rust, the cars electrical system may be damaged – which can ultimately cause death.

You may ask what happens to these cars when the insurance companies take them. Well, in order to get rid of these cars, insurers sell them at various car auctions at very low prices. But the insurance companies cannot ensure that the cars will be sold to honest people…

Usually, these cars are bought by car-rebuilders who rebuild the cars, repaint them, and sometimes even change the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) to be able to sell these cars to unsuspecting buyers. This practice is known as title washing. Rebuilders drive the cars to those states which do not recognize titles and register the wrecked cars anew. In this case, the car loses its salvage title and becomes ready to be sold at rather a high price.

Now that you know there is such a scam there, you need some tips to avoid it. So, here are useful tips to help you avoid buying a totaled vehicle.

  • Do not trust those car dealers or car sellers who offer you completely new cars with no miles on them and in a surprisingly low price.
  • Look at the car exterior and interior carefully. See whether there are any scratches or signs of rust or just new paint.
  • In order to avoid buying a totaled vehicle you should go deeper, this means looking into the trunk to find any signs of corrosion. Also, look for any evidence of mold.
  • Check the documents. See whether the VIN of the car matches with that mentioned in the documents.
  • No one wants to spend money in vain. Some people, for example, think it is not necessary to have the car inspected by a mechanic. But if you really want to avoid buying a totaled vehicle, you SHOULD ask a mechanic to inspect it. Better spend some $50 now than lose $50,000 later.
  • Also, a step we recommend in nearly all our blogs, check the vehicle’s history report by either Carfax or Autocheck.

Buying a car which has undergone title washing may cost your life, so be attentive when shipping for a vehicle, especially a used one.