Motor vehicle "title washing" is the term car dealers use to describe how they get rid of ("wash") the state-law-mandatory brand off of a car title. Many states have laws that require a motor vehicle's legal title to be "branded" with a permanent word or phrase that describes something that happened to the vehicle, such as being totalled out in an accident, salvaged, a flood vehicle, a lemon law buy back, etc.
Title washing occurs when a car dealer who wants to remove that brand, illegally, simply retitles the vehicle in a state that does not have a branding law that exactly matches up with the original state's law. Since it doesn't, the brand doesn't exist and the title clerk in the new state issues a clean title with no brand on it at all. Then it looks like the vehicle never had any problem at all in its history - making it worth thousands of dollars more than a branded title vehicle. A very profitable kind of fraud is title washing.
Reporting on a Montana truck owner who found out that their truck was a salvage vehicle that had been wrecked, the story explains how the truck went through a series of quick dealer-to-dealer sales - a frequent sign that the dealers see something they don't want to hold on to. The owner is now stuck making payments of $338 on a truck that isn't worth a fraction of the original selling price.
It's a good explanation of how a little time and caution can help avoid being a victim, but not when the thieves are really good at what they are doing - and many of them are.
Even if the title shows nothing, and a CarFax or AutoCheck or a search of the federal wrecked car database at www.nmvtis.gov shows nothing, there are some tell-tale ways to spot a wrecked-and-repaired car before you buy it. Here's a link to our video tips on how to spot a wrecked car before you buy it.
Burdge Law Office
Because life's too short to drive a wrecked car