US States Rebuilt Title Rules

Can I Buy a Flooded Car and Then Fix it to Obtain a Title in Wisconsin?

By Mike Richards Posted: 08/31/2017

It’s easy to get caught up in a sense of identity surrounding the car you drive. You spend a lot of time in it, and it may be one of the first things people notice about you. But cars are expensive, which means many people have to choose between driving the car of their dreams and paying the mortgage. A used car is one way to save money on a car in Wisconsin, but it’s not the only way.

Salvage car dealers frequently offer flooded cars for sale. These cars can be a good investment, a chance to rebuild a car at a profit, or an absolutely terrible idea. It all depends on the approach you take.

About Flooded Cars in Wisconsin

So how does a car become flooded anyway? Flooded cars are any cars that have suffered extensive water damage. And while you might envision a car being flooded off of the road in a truly epic rainstorm, most floods are far less exciting. Even a few inches of water can destroy a car. That’s why many flooded cars look fine, but are actually quite dangerous to drive.

So what’s wrong with flooded cars? Two things. First, they’re damaged enough that an insurance company has declared them a total loss. That should serve as a pretty significant red flag that a car is going to need extensive work. But second, and equally important, is the fact that you don’t know what you’re getting with a flooded car until you subject it to rigorous mechanical testing. Flooded cars may be molded, may have extensive engine damage, and may be unsafe to drive. Don’t buy one without knowing what you’re getting into.

Flood and Salvage Titles in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, a flood-damaged car is treated similarly to a salvage vehicle. But it receives a separate title designation denoting its history as a flood car. That title designation will follow the car for its life and may serve as a deterrent to would-be buyers.

You might be tempted to try to obscure the fact that a car has a flood history. Resist the urge. This is a crime known as title washing. It can send you to jail.

Can I Buy and Repair an Wisconsin Flooded Car to Get a New Title?

Only cars less than seven years old can apply for the flood designation in Wisconsin. If your car fits this description, you can repair it to seek a rebuilt salvage title. This title requires successful passage of a detailed inspection. It provides some reassurance to buyers, and can therefore slightly drive up the value of the car.

However, a rebuilt salvage designation still indicates that the car was once a salvage/flooded vehicle. This can drive down the value of the car in the eyes of the buyer, and means that you probably won’t get the full price you’d get for a similar used car. Proceed accordingly.

Tips for Successfully Entering the Wisconsin Flooded Car Market

Buying and selling flood cars is a viable way to make money, but it’s not for everyone. To maximize your chances at earning a profit in this industry:

  • Apply for a dealer’s license. This allows you to attend dealer auctions, which offer higher quality cars and lower prices.
  • Know how to spot a fraudulent title. Some salvage and flood cars are stolen vehicles.
  • Have a clear plan of attack for repairing the car. Knowing what’s necessary and how long it will take from the outset can help you devise a plan for selling multiple cars, always having money on hand for repairs, and always making a profit.
  • Know that some salvage cars may be stolen, so seeing a copy of the title, and verifying that it is not fraudulent, may keep you out of jail.
  • Become active in your local dealer community. These are experts who can mentor you, let you know whether your strategies are likely to be effective, and welcome you into the dealer community.
  • Get to know the car market. Figure out which cars are in demand locally, and focus on providing those cars to buyers.
  • Educate yourself about cars. Choose cars that are in high demand in your local market, or else you may end up with a car you cannot sell.
  • Set a clear budget for each car you purchase, and stick to it. Don’t allow bidding wars and ego to drive up the price of a car that should sell cheaply.
  • Request a copy of the title of every car you intend to buy, and conduct a vehicle history report before purchasing the car.
  • Never attempt to obscure a car’s history as a salvage or flood vehicle. This illegal strategy, known as title washing, can land you in jail or in a costly lawsuit.
  • Don’t finance a flood car, no matter how appealing it is. It’s always possible to lose money on these transactions, and financing a car that turns out to be a dud can send you into serious debt.
  • Get involved in online salvage car communities. This widens your market beyond your immediate geographic region, and can put you in touch with buyers who are looking for the exact car or cars you have available for sale.
  • Be honest with buyers. Misleading sales pitches can land you in legal trouble, and destroy your reputation.

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