In The Market For A Used Car? Beware Of Flood Damaged Cars

Are you in the market to buy a used car? With the Louisiana floods on many of our minds, we wanted to make you aware of a potential scam related to flood-damaged cars. These scams happen all too frequently as an outcome of natural disasters. Flooding in such a wide area can cause a lot of damage and unscrupulous people may try to take flood-damaged cars out of the area to re-sell.

Flood-damaged cars may show up in areas or states, particularly in areas within a couple of hundred miles of the afflicted areas.

Whether it’s a tornado, a flood, a snowstorm or other natural disaster, companies will often try to recoup some of the costs incurred when disaster strikes.

Flood Damaged CarsA common practice is to salvage big-ticket items like cars. Fleets of cars that might have been damaged in a flood can be purchased at a heavily discounted rate, cleaned up and then taken out of state to be sold elsewhere. Without realizing it, you may be buying a vehicle that is flood-damaged.

If you’re in the market for a used car, doing a little homework could save you some big headaches down the road (yes, that’s a car pun :-)):

Buyer Beware

There are some things you can do yourself that are fairly obvious signs of a flood-damaged car. Here’s a list of what you should inspect or look for when considering buying a used car:

  • Inside the car:
    • Look for water stains, mildew, sand or silt under the carpet, floor mats, and dashboard
    • Check for mud or rust in the wheel well or trunk where the spare is stored.
    • Do a smell test. Can you smell mold mildew? Or detergent? You might even notice a heavy aroma of cleaners and disinfectants. That could be a sign that someone’s trying to mask a mold or odor problem.
  • Outside the car:
    • Look for fogging inside the headlights and taillights. That’s a sign of moisture inside the light.
    • Autotrader also recommends you check for rust on exposed screws, around doors and in the trunk. That can indicate exposure to moisture.

Get Informed

There are several free services that can help you learn about a car’s history. If you’re looking for a used car, it’s always a good idea to have your own mechanic take a look and give you a report. Here are a few tips on what to look for:

  • Get a vehicle history report. Check a trusted database service. There are reliable services that charge a small fee. The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) free database lists flood damage and other information.
  • Understand the difference between a “salvage title” and a “flood title.”A “salvage title” means the car was declared a total loss by an insurance company because of a serious accident or some other serious problems. A “flood title” means the car has damage from sitting in water deep enough to fill the engine compartment. The title status is part of a vehicle history report. Either way, every used car needs an inspection and records before you buy, and with salvage and flood-titled cars, you need to be extra careful and diligent.
  • Have your mechanic inspect the car’s mechanical and electrical components, and systems that contain fluids for water contamination.

Report Fraudulent Dealers

If you suspect a dealer is knowingly selling a storm-damaged car or a salvaged vehicle as a good-condition used car, the FTC recommends that you contact your auto insurance company, local law enforcement agency, or the NICB at (800) TEL-NICB (835-6422). You’ll help someone else avoid a rip-off.

What It Means For You

If you’re in the market to buy a car, beware of cars that may have been damaged by flooding. Doing some due diligence before buying could potentially save you a lot of money down the line.

Did You Know…

  • Women influence 84% of all vehicle purchase decisions.
  • Women purchase 60 percent of all new cars
  • Women purchase 53 percent of all used cars
  • 7 million women have driver’s licenses – 1.4 million more than men
  • $300 billion spent by women on vehicles annually
  • 62% of women rank safety as very significant
  • 91% of car salesmen at franchised dealerships are men

Useful Sites

Here are a few more resources that can help you with buying a new or used car:

  • AskPatty  – Automotive advice for women
  • WomenDrivers  – a forum for women to discuss car purchasing experiences at dealerships
  • MyCarDoesWhat  – explanations of all the safety features of cars, from the National Safety Council
  • SheBuysCars – SheBuysCars is a web community for women who buy, care for, and live their lives in and around their cars
  • Kelley Blue Book  – Check KBB car price values when buying and selling new or used vehicles.
  • Kelley Blue Book Used Cars – See the value of your used car before you trade it in or sell
  • Motor Vehicle History – Check any vehicle’s history, from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System
  • Edmund’s  – Research new and used cars including car prices, view incentives and dealer inventory listings, compare vehicles, get car buying advice and reviews

Sources: US Department of Commerce, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Edmund’s, Kelley Blue Book, National Automobile Dealer Association, FTC 

[starbox]