If you're in the market for a used car, you may have heard the term "title washing" thrown around. It sounds like something you might do to a pile of dirty laundry, but it's actually a serious problem that can leave you with a car that's not worth the money you paid for it. In this article, we'll explain what title washing is, how it's done, and the risks of buying a car with a washed title.
What is Title Washing?
Title washing is the practice of removing a vehicle's "branded" title designation, such as "salvage", "flood" or any other brand in order to make it appear as though the car has a clean title. Branded titles are issued by state motor vehicle departments when a vehicle has been seriously damaged, stolen, or otherwise deemed a total loss by an insurance company. These designations stay with the car for the rest of its life, and can significantly impact its resale value. This is the reason why VIN history check is an absolutely necessary procedure for all used car buyers.
Title washing is illegal in most states, but unfortunately it still happens and may be practiced by both dealers and private persons. The scam works in the following ways:
- by transferring the vehicle's title to a state with less stringent branding laws
- by tampering with the paperwork to hide the car's true history
- by exporting and importing a vehicle
- the so-calld clip-jobs sometimes save damaged vehicles from a salvage or even a junk title they desrve
Once the title has been "washed," the car can be sold with a clean title, even though it may have serious mechanical or structural issues that would make it unsafe to drive.
Risks of Buying a Vehicle with a Washed Title
Cars with washed titles often have serious mechanical or structural issues that would make them unsafe to drive. For example, a car that was in a serious accident may have a rebuilt transmission that's prone to failure, or a car that was flooded may have severe water damage that could lead to electrical problems down the road.
Reduced Resale Value
Even if a car with a washed title is mechanically sound, it will likely have a significantly reduced resale value. Most buyers are wary of cars with branded titles, and will only consider them if the price is significantly lower than that of a similar car with a clean title. This means that if you buy a car with a washed title, you'll likely have trouble selling it down the road, and may have to accept a much lower price than you paid for it.
Finally, buying a car with a washed title can lead to legal issues down the road. If the car is discovered to have a washed title, you could be held liable for any damages that result from the fraud. All the states have some law that obliges sellers of a vehicle to disclose the branded title or any major damage to the buyer, failure to do so is punishable according to the state law, even if the seller is unaware of the hidden defect. Additionally, you may have trouble registering the car or obtaining insurance, which could leave you with a car that's essentially worthless.