SCHAUMBURG, IL --- Nearly 1.3 million cars and trucks throughout the United States were designated as damaged by accidents or severe weather including thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes and flooding in the first half of 2008. But according to AutoCheck vehicle history reports from Experian Automotive, more than 185,000 of these vehicles -- over 15 percent -- lost their damage designation, or brand, when they were re-titled in another state.

While these brands did not carry over to the new titles, they can still be found on the vehicles' AutoCheck vehicle history reports. Vehicles sustaining damage or experiencing other major events in their histories carry "brands" on their titles -- words or symbols on the official vehicle title issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles. These brands signify vehicle status or condition with classifications such as salvaged, lemon, rebuilt or reconstructed, flood, hail or fire damaged, totaled, broken odometer, stolen, or abandoned.

"Title-washing," wherein a vehicle is re-titled in another state but its brand is not carried over to the new title, remains a prevalent issue with the potential to endanger thousands of used-vehicle shoppers each year who may unknowingly buy a possibly unsafe vehicle that had been severely damaged in the past.

"Too often, vehicles branded due to some form of severe damage are reconstructed and re-titled without their damage-related brand and then sold to unsuspecting consumers," said Scott Waldron, president of Experian Automotive. "With such a large number of title-washed vehicles on the road today, consumers shopping for a reliable used car or truck need to get an AutoCheck vehicle history report for all vehicles they consider buying."

Severe weather such as tornadoes and flooding in the first six months of 2008, along with the onset of hurricane season, has increased the potential for more title-washed vehicles to find their way into the market. Experian's AutoCheck vehicle history reports allow consumers to quickly access the history of any used vehicle by revealing possible undisclosed or unknown problems that can affect an automobile's safety and resale value including major flood damage, frame damage, odometer rollback issues, along with other key information.

Because AutoCheck vehicle history reports keep a list of each reported history event on a vehicle, items such as storm-related title brands stay on the vehicle's history report even though the brand may be lost when the vehicle is re-titled in a new state.

"Consumers need to arm themselves with as much information as possible when shopping for a used vehicle," Waldron said. Consumers can obtain an AutoCheck vehicle history report by visiting .