Just because a used car handles OK during a test drive doesn't mean it's safe to buy.
There may be skeletons in that trunk.
A large-and-growing shadow sector exists in the used car marketplace populated by criminals adept at concealing structural damage on used cars. Through licensing, registration and mechanical and auto-body trickery and malfeasance, vehicles are being sold for a profit after been sloppily rebuilt after an accident.
In most states and provinces, it is required that major damage is registered against the vehicle’s title of ownership. When insurance companies write off a vehicle as a “total loss” after an accident or other event like a flood or hail storm, it is expected that the vehicle will be permanently marked as damaged goods. This keeps dangerous vehicles off the road and protects the buying public.
However, criminals have discovered loopholes and technology that can give write-offs new life and buyers and the travelling public nightmares.
Using photo editing software and digital scanners, criminals can quickly and easily print new, blemish-free titles. They are also registering damaged vehicles in different jurisdictions, diluting the vehicle history and record until the record of damage is a distant memory.
The process is called "title washing" and according to vehicle history provider CarFax, 800,000 cars on U.S. highways owe their continued use to criminals who have used these underhanded scams to make wrecked cars appear undamaged.
Some industry observers and insiders claim the problem is getting worse. According to Experian AutoCheck (which like CarFax sells vehicle history reports to consumers), 425,000 of the vehicles damaged in the first half of 2012 were later retitled as clean in another state.
So, how do you protect yourself from title laundering?
Deal with a reputable retailer and demand facts, records, histories and an objective and honest mechanical inspection.
In B.C., dealers and consumers are required to purchase an additional CarProof B.C. report that costs an additional $20.
That is because the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), the province's public auto insurer, charges CarProof extra for access to its data.
“We know that it offers the best data, and it's the most comprehensive report that's available,” CarProof's director of product management, Shawn Vording, said of CarProof's reports.
“If there are dealers that are choosing not to use our report, they're also choosing then not to have the most comprehensive report."
Victoria Premium Automobiles believes in full disclosure and providing customers the most comprehensive report possible. That is why Victoria Premium Automobiles uses CarProof's reports on all vehicles sold. Each VPA vehicle is meticulously inspected and must also pass our rigorous vetting standards.