COLUMBUS (WCMH)–If you’re in the market to buy a used car, auto industry experts want you to be on alert for previously flooded cars. Carfax reports indicate 7,000 flooded cars are here in Ohio.
Title-washing is an illegal scam to dupe consumers into thinking they’re buying a great used car when in reality it’s swamped with problems.
“It’s the process of literally removing the flag on a title that indicates whether the vehicle was flooded, salvaged, caught on fire, any of those major things that can impact the safety and performance of a car to show that it never happened on paper,” said Chris Basso with Carfax.
After a year of devastating storms across the country, Chris Basso with carfax said consumers should be on alert for flooded cars at used car dealerships.
“We’re looking at 212,000 more vehicles that were flooded during Hurricane Ida,” Basso said.
According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, Ohio law requires a car’s owner to flag the back of the certificate of the title as a flood vehicle.
“It’s not illegal to sell a flooded car if that information is being disclosed. As consumers, we just need to make sure that we have all the information that we need to make an educated decision,” said Basso.
If you suspect a car might be flood-damaged, but the title does not clarify, Andrew Corbitt at SigmaTec Automotive in Hilliard said to take the car on a test drive and visit a professional mechanic to inspect it.
“We look body, we look inside the car, we look for those smells, the stained carpet, all the things that go with flood car, and this is the first thing that tips us off to look for flood damages,” said Corbitt.
The Department of Public Safety also noted that consumers can use the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles online tool to check the car’s history by using the 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN). There, you can see if the paper title is branded as flooded.
“Title washing is a nationwide problem and it’s easy for conmen to get away because consumers, most consumers don’t know what it is and don’t know what they’re looking for,” said Basso.
Even if the car appears to look nice from the exterior, experts suggest you inspect the title and the vehicle.
“Down the road, if a car’s been in a flood, you’ll start to smell mold, mildew, stuff like that,” said Corbitt.
“Flood-damaged cars literally rot from the inside out,” said Basso.
According to Basso, Carfax works with dealerships, law enforcement, and other organizations in the auto industry to raise awareness for title-washing.
“If you’re comfortable putting yourself and your family in a flooded car, make sure you have the information to make that decision,6:55 and if you’re not, pump the breaks, and find another car that is going to be right for you and your family,” said Basso.