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How to Avoid Purchasing a Vehicle with A Salvage Title

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On: Tue, May 11, 2010 at 10:19AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

How to Avoid Purchasing a Vehicle with A Salvage  Title

When Hurricane Katrina struck Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and Hurricane Rita hit Florida, Louisiana and Texas, it was one of the worst natural disasters in United States history. Literally thousands of vehicles were flooded. Not many people are aware of the fact that many of those cars that were severely damaged during  natural disasters (or major accidents) were then shipped to other parts of the country in the attempts to launder the titles and sell them to unsuspecting consumers.

Dishonest sellers know how to register vehicles in different states in a way that omits the salvage title from showing up so that they can make more profit by marking up the vehicles sticker tag much higher than what it is really worth. Some of these cars and trucks end up unknowingly in the hands of honest dealers, who are unaware that the title has been laundered. “Title washing” occurs most frequently in states that have adjoining cities because the laws differ from one state to another giving the crooks an easy opportunity to launder the vehicle's title. Once the title appears clean on a new registration document, more often than not the car is entered into the interstate auction tour where unknowing, honest used car dealers may purchase the salvage vehicles without ever knowing that an unscrupulous deal had taken place.

If you don’t want to be stuck with a vehicle that has been totaled or flooded then it is important to obtain a vehicle history report before considering the purchase of any used car. Are you aware that over 2 million cars are wrecked each year and a million of those are sold at auction to used car dealers and then end up back on the road? Many people think that getting a mechanic to check out a used vehicle will give them enough information about the automobile before making a purchasing decision.

A mechanic can visually inspect a used car for any obvious signs of collision such as frame damage, they can also check for fluid leaks or corrosion, but they cannot detect the subtle signs of a flooded vehicle, or that the title reports the car was stolen or passed through salvage auction. The history report on a vehicle can tell you exactly how many previous owners the car had, and disclose any police reports on the car. Make sure to arrange a pre-purchase inspection by a certified mechanic who has experience in inspecting vehicles in order to pick out the indicative signs of major repair work, in addition to the vehicle history report.

It is more important than ever to check out the history of the used car you are considering purchasing, to verify the VIN, and to make sure the car has not been in a recent accident. In addition to doing a thorough background check, it is recommended to have a mechanic (preferably one you know and trust) to do a comprehensive check.

A Car-Fax report is like doing a background check on a vehicle, it not only gives the history of the car’s past owners and verifies the VIN, some of the most valuable information is located in the past accident report section. When a vehicle is involved in a major accident, a police report is filed and if repairs to that vehicle exceed $500, that information is required by law to be entered into the police report. The CarFax report will disclose any damage the vehicle has acquired as a percentage. If an automobile has 75% or more damage, it is considered totaled and in most cases will have a “salvage title.” In some states however, a vehicle can sustain over 75% (up to 90%) damage and still have a clear title, so this section of the report is really invaluable for purchasing used vehicles anywhere in the U.S.

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RoadKill | 10:31AM (Tue, May 11, 2010)

The lack of vehicle documentation law uniformity from coast-to-coast has led to this practice. I bet you if a lawmaker bought one of these vehicles for their son or daughter you would see swift change...


imwithcoco | 11:32AM (Tue, May 11, 2010)

Maybe dealers that buy auction vehicles need to have a web enabled cell phone so they can check the vehicle with Carfax prior to purchasing the vehicle. Since the government seems to love spending, maybe some money needs to be put into a national title search database that will flag these vehicles from ever having a clear title.


RoadKill | 12:16PM (Tue, May 11, 2010)

makes too much sense

  • RoadKill

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