says just because floods and natural disasters have occurred in Houston, New Orleans or other areas doesn't mean damaged cars are not being sold all over the country.

According to, CarFax reports there are some 800,000 cars that have some sort of flood or other damage and have been refurbished and are for sale around the country.

The chance of them winding up in the West, Northwest or other areas is actually greater, because people who "title wash" these vehicles try to unload them as far away from disasters as possible.

Jalopnik says title washing is an illegal process whereby title documents are altered to remove any evidence the vehicle was flooded or otherwise damaged. Now, CarFax and other reports such as are a great first line of defense.

But Jalopnik says ANY pre-owned vehicle you are considering needs to be inspected by a third party or independent mechanic. The listed a variety of areas where water damage can be seen. Usually these illegal car sellers miss cleaning certain areas. They include under the rear carpet in the spare tire area, corners of the floors and upholstery and not completely getting the wet smell out.

Jalopnik says look for excessive rust, have the mechanic check wiring and other compents too. Carefully sniff the carpet and seats. It's virtually impossible to get rid of all the 'wet' smell from floors and cushions, even by the best detail crew.

While MOST Northwest Dealers are reputable and go through the auction for pre-owned vehicles, it's possible some of these title washed cars slip through the cracks.

To find out more ways to safeguard yourself, click here.

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