Title - or "brand" - washing occurs when a seller takes steps to hide the damaged or totaled condition of a vehicle. When a vehicle is damaged or declared a total loss due to flood, fire, accident, natural disaster or other circumstance, the state in which it's titled will "brand" the title, noting the condition on the document. Unscrupulous sellers circumvent the branding by repairing or camouflaging the damage and then titling the vehicle in a different state.

Tip of the Week


Title - or "brand" - washing occurs when a seller takes steps to hide the damaged or totaled condition of a vehicle. When a vehicle is damaged or declared a total loss due to flood, fire, accident, natural disaster or other circumstance, the state in which it's titled will "brand" the title, noting the condition on the document. Unscrupulous sellers circumvent the branding by repairing or camouflaging the damage and then titling the vehicle in a different state.


During the first six months of 2011, 257,245 vehicles were initially branded and then transferred or retitled in a second state with a clean title, according to the AutoCheck vehicle history report database. In 2008, that happened to just 185,000 vehicles.


You can protect yourself from the risk of buying a title-washed vehicle by purchasing a vehicle history report. Most title-washed cars keep their original vehicle identification numbers (VIN), which is all you need to order an AutoCheck (www.autocheck.com) report.


The report includes information on the status of the title (including if it's been branded), a check of possible problems, an odometer check, the history of how the vehicle was used (as a rental or private vehicle) and any events, such as accidents or flood damage that have been reported on the vehicle. You'll also get the ZIP code of where the vehicle has been registered, and you can use online resources to match that information to regions where the vehicle might have been exposed to floods or other natural disasters.


- ARA


The List


Here are the 10 best vehicles of 2012, according to Car and Driver:




Audi A6/A7 3.0T Quattro

BMW 3-Series/M3

Cadillac CTS-V

Ford Focus

Ford Mustang GT/Boss 302

Honda Accord

Honda Fit

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Porsche Boxter/Cayman

Volkswagen Golf/GTI

Did You Know


The Dodge Dart is coming back, and it will be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.


Car Q&A


Q: Is there any difference in all the different windshield washer cleaners that I see in the auto parts stores? Some are more than double the price than the lower-priced washer fluids.


A: This is a great question, and yes, there is a big difference in the washer fluids, especially here in the snowbelt area with sometimes very cold weather. The blue color fluid is the most common and often discounted. The good stuff is either orange or purple. I have purchased a case of the orange color that contains Rain-X additive that does work. The original blue color often discounted washer fluid is great for the summer months and nonfreezing conditions.


- Junior Damato, Talking Cars columnist


GateHouse News Service