via Flood-damaged cars put back on market, clarionledger.com
As the region cleans up after the catastrophic flooding of the past few weeks, there are going to be lots of folks looking to sell their flood-damaged cars. It happens every time there’s a major flood, and it often catches people off-guard. Usually, flooded cars often hit the market within days.
Vehicles in the path of floodwaters can have severe damage that is not always apparent or repairable. As we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina here in Mississippi, flooded cars can be a big problem for unsuspecting buyers.
After insurance claims are settled, some cars are put back into the market. Unfortunately, it can be hard to detect a flood-damaged car. Unscrupulous owners and salesmen will often go to great lengths to hide flood damage. Legally and ethically, owners of flooded cars should disclose whether the vehicle has been in a flood, crash or other disaster. But unscrupulous sellers don’t always comply with the law, or care about ethics when there’s money to be made.
Just because a vehicle looks fine after being refurbished doesn’t mean it’s safe. Often, the floodwater has permanently damaged key components vital to operation and safety (such as the electrical system or brakes). While the vehicle may function fine at first, buyers can be on the hook for expensive repairs years later, with no recourse or warranties from the seller. And flooding can weaken the vehicle’s safety system through rust and corrosion, as well, making the vehicle unsafe to drive.
If you’re in the market for a vehicle, it’s a good idea to be extra careful of private-sale deals on vehicles. And running a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) check on Carfax, AutoCheck or another title-checking service may reveal whether the vehicle has been marked as salvage (but may not help if the title has been “washed” illegally). Any time you get a used vehicle, take it to a local mechanic you trust so they can check it out thoroughly.
There are a few things to look for which may signify the vehicle has been in a flood. Autotrader.com sent me these helpful tips:
- Check under the vehicle’s carpets or floor covering for mud or rust, and don’t forget the trunk. Often, hurried cleanups will ignore damaged areas covered by carpeting.
- Take a whiff of the carpets. A mildew-like smell could be a sign of trouble.
- Check for mud and debris in hard-to-reach areas, and on the underside of panels and brackets; they may have been missed during the cleaning process.
- Look for rust on the heads of any exposed screws under the hood, around the doors or in the trunk.
If you find out you’ve bought a flood-damaged vehicle that wasn’t disclosed as such, contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Mississippi attorney general’s office at 1-800-281-4418.