The Car Coach: Flood damage
When buying a used vehicle, look carefully for signs of damage. These factors can affect your safety.
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Flood damaged cars are something that most of us don’t think about. Each time a hurricane or flood impacts an area of the country, automobiles are damaged. Sadly, insurance companies do not destroy many. These unsafe vehicles sit in fields and are filled with ecoli and mold from sewage and water. What’s really frightening is that these damaged cars impact us all.
If you were fooled into buying a flood-damaged car, here’s the bad news:
• There is no warranty from the manufacturer due to water damage
• Many of these vehicles stop in the middle of the road unexpectedly, causing collisions
• If you are a part of an accident air bags may NOT deploy
• Seat belts often don't function properly
• Anti-lock brakes may not work
The bottom-line is that these cars are complete SCRAP! As the driver of one you are now a part of a potential accident and endangering anyone who rides with you or around you. These vehicles aren’t safe. Sadly there are an estimated 650,000 flood-damaged cars.
Do these cars really get into the marketplace?
Oh yes they do! One insurance company recently settled a $40 million lawsuit when it was disclosed that the insurer had dumped almost 30,000 totaled cars at auction without bothering to have them retitled as salvage vehicles. Many of the vehicles will be shredded into little metallic pieces. Others, however, will end in auctions or sent to your state. This is called washing titles. Not all states print on the title what happened to that auto. If in doubt – walk away from the deal!
Tips to avoid buying flooded cars:
• First, buy only from reputable dealers. You can buy great vehicles from private sellers but beware of “curbstoners” – people who sell numerous cars claiming to be private sellers and therefore avoid basic government oversight and no Lemon Law coverage. Avoid auctions unless you are experienced with them.
• Check to make sure the vehicle identification number (VIN) matches on the car’s door sticker and the dashboard tag
• Carefully inspect the inside of the car, looking for watermarks on the door panels, radiators, wheel wells and seat cushions
• Look for rust on unusual places like door hinges, hood springs, or underneath dash brackets and trunk latches.
• Look for water and moisture inside exterior lighting.
• Beware of cars with new or mismatched upholstery
• If the car has is a paper air filter, check it – if it has water stains the car has likely been flooded.
• Ask the seller if the vehicle has had flood damage – sounds simple, but answers like, “not to the best of my knowledge” or “the previous owner didn’t tell me of any flood damage” are red flags. Get the answer in writing with the bill of sale.
• Ask to see the title – even if it is not stamped “flood” or “salvage,” get the car’s history through online sources to find out if the vehicle has come from a recently or previously flooded area of the country.
• Only 10-15% of flood-damaged cars are reported to these agencies, so have a certified ASE technician inspect the vehicle before you make an offer.