| ehicle title washing sounds
a little like a car wash but, in this case, the consumer gets soaked.
With as many as 45 million used cars and trucks sold in 1999, it's perhaps not surprising that a
number of those vehicles come fully equippedequipped with headaches from the merely cosmetic to
those threatening safety. These questions and answers can steer you through the title washing track.
|What is vehicle title washing?
Vehicle title washing occurs when vehicle rebuilders patch together severely damaged and salvaged vehicles in one state, and then move to another state to obtain clear and clean title that gives a buyer no clue of the vehicle's past damage. Often, the rebuilt vehicles have significant defects that bring buyers problems, expenses, and safety risks.
In 1998, 2.5 million U.S. vehicles were so badly damaged that they were declared a total loss, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Of these, approximately 40% were rebuilt and put back on the road. Women, minorities, recent immigrants, and teenagers buying their first cars are common targets of unscrupulous vehicle sellers.
|How does vehicle title washing affect consumers?
There are numerous cases, but here are some examples:
in one state and then
move to another state
clear and clean title.
|Who has laws against title washing, and is any legislation pending?
California, Michigan, and Iowa have tough consumer protection laws prescribing when a vehicle's title must be branded as salvage or nonrepairablebut other states are less protective. Unscrupulous individuals take advantage of this lack of uniformity and move wrecked vehicles to states having low or no standards in vehicle retitling. In this way, they are able to wipe out the vehicle's damage history.
Nationally, both Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) have sponsored bills supporting a uniform national standard for dealing with wrecked and salvaged vehicles. Lott's bill would classify as "salvage" a vehicle that sustains damage exceeding 75% of its preaccident value, but would permit states to enact lower percentages. It also would require warning labels on rebuilt salvage vehicles. Feinstein's bill goes furtherrequiring the word "salvage" to be stamped on the title of any vehicle with damage exceeding 65% of its preaccident value. It also would require owners to disclose any damage exceeding $3,000, unless the damage was entirely cosmetic.
of the 2.5 million
U.S. vehicles declared
a total loss in 1998
and put back
on the road.
|How do I know if a car has been title-washed?
In some cases, you may not be able to know for surebut here are some measures you can take:
Lack of uniformity
among state laws
lets crooks move
wrecked vehicles to
states having low or no
|What steps can I take to protect
Before making a down payment on a used car: