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Experian: Almost 200,000 titles have been washed so far this year

November 17, 2010

An alarming number of damaged vehicles have been re-titled as clean so far this year, and that figure could continue to grow in the aftermath of hurricane season and other natural disasters, according to Experian Automotive, which produces vehicle history reports. 

In total, 1.3 million vehicles were labeled as damaged by accidents or severe weather during the first six months of 2008, the company reported Aug. 25.

Moreover, Experian reported that more than 15 percent, or 185,000 units, were re-titled in another state and lost their damage designation.

Looking ahead, the company projects that the influx of natural disasters in the first part of the year, plus the start to hurricane season, could mean even more title washing to come.

A vehicle that is damaged or goes through a major event typically is issued a "brand" on its title by the state’s department of motor vehicles. Branding designations can include salvaged, lemon, rebuilt or reconstructed, flood-, hail- or fire-damaged, totaled, broken odometer, stolen or abandoned, and more.

Because there is no centralized database, when a vehicle is re-titled in another state, it can lose its branding. This otherwise is known as title washing.

"Too often, vehicles branded due to some form of severe damage are reconstructed and re-titled without their damage-related brand and then sold to unsuspecting consumers," said Scott Waldron of Experian Automotive.

"With such a large number of title-washed vehicles on the road today, consumers shopping for a reliable used car or truck need to get a vehicle history report for all vehicles they consider buying," Waldron added.