Protecting Yourself from Title Washing Scams in Orange County


Title washing scams pose a significant risk for used car buyers in Orange County. This fraudulent practice can turn what seems like a great deal into a financial nightmare. In this article, we will explain what title washing is, provide tips on identifying a title-washed vehicle, and guide you on the steps to avoid falling victim to such scams.

Understanding Title Washing

Title washing is a deceptive practice employed in the automotive industry where a car’s history is concealed to mask the fact that it has been heavily damaged or totaled and subsequently repaired. Scammers exploit regulatory loopholes to obtain a clean title for these vehicles, falsely presenting them as being in good condition. Unwary buyers of such cars not only end up overpaying but also stand the risk of purchasing a vehicle that is not roadworthy, posing a significant safety risk.

Prevalence of Title Washing in Orange County

While we lack specific data on Orange County, a study by IHS Automotive Research & Analysis indicates that 1 in every 325 used cars sold in the United States experiences title washing. With the bustling used car market in Orange County, it’s reasonable to assume that the area is not immune to such fraudulent practices. In several instances, unsuspecting buyers have ended up with vehicles that had been salvaged and title-washed, causing significant financial losses and safety concerns.

Identifying Title-Washed Vehicles

Here are some indicators that a vehicle may have been title-washed:

  • Visible signs of damage: Despite repairs, these vehicles often bear signs of past damage. Look for signs of wear, dents, scratches, or indications of odometer tampering.
  • Suspiciously low price: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. A vehicle priced significantly below its market value should raise your suspicions.
  • Reluctance to share car history: Sellers involved in title washing often discourage buyers from delving too deep into the vehicle’s history.
  • Out-of-state vehicle: If the vehicle appears to be from another state, it might have been moved to circumvent stricter title regulations.

Steps to Prevent Title Washing Fraud

To protect yourself from title washing, consider the following steps:

  1. Perform due diligence: Always research the car’s history before purchasing. Use trusted vehicle search engines to check for any red flags.
  2. Get a professional inspection: Have a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle. They can spot signs of prior damage that may not be apparent to the untrained eye.
  3. Verify with the DMV: Check the vehicle’s title status with the Department of Motor Vehicles. They can confirm the vehicle’s history and whether it has been marked as a salvage vehicle.

What to Do If You Encounter Title Washing

If you suspect you’ve fallen victim to title washing, report it to your local law enforcement agency or the Orange County Auto Theft Task Force (OCATT). They can take necessary action against the perpetrators. You may also want to consult with a certified lemon law expert to explore your legal options.

Resources and Tools

Here are some resources to assist in your vehicle purchase journey:

Remember, knowledge is power. Being informed and cautious when purchasing a used car can protect you from falling victim to title-washing scams. Always take the time to thoroughly check a vehicle’s history and corroborate the information provided by the seller.

Have you or someone you know had experiences with title washing in Orange County? Share your stories in the comments below to help others stay informed and safe.