The recent flooding from New Orleans to New York and the rains brought on by Tropical Storm Nicholas can lead crooks to attempt to pawn flood damaged vehicles like standard used cars.
These vehicles typically appear in auto auctions, used car dealerships, and classifieds and ads on social media.
The Better Business Bureau warns unsuspecting consumers, especially those living in areas of the country unaffected by hurricanes or floods, are often fooled by fresh upholstery, new rugs and prices. windfall.
The current lack of available used cars poses an even greater threat to consumers, but a major opportunity for con artists.
Once owners of damaged cars come to an agreement with insurance companies, vehicles are sometimes refurbished and resold. Flooded cars are often transported far beyond the region of origin where the flood or major storm occurred to places where consumers may be less aware of the damage and warning signs to look for.
Often, middleman buyers intentionally hide a car’s history as a flood damaged vehicle through what is known as the “title wash” and sell it to an unsuspecting buyer in unaffected condition. the catastrophe.
Among the many possible mechanical problems encountered by flooded cars, corrosion can take years to finally surface, when it can cause electrical and mechanical problems. By the time the problems become apparent, the seller is gone and the new owner is left with an unreliable vehicle, with no recourse against the seller.
If you are in the market to buy a used car, the Better Business Bureau strongly recommends caution,
Be prepared for unscrupulous businesses and individuals who might try to sell flood damaged cars as standard used cars, without revealing the vehicle’s history.
The BBB has the following tips for car buyers to determine if a used car is damaged by flooding:
Ask to see the title
Check the date and location of the transfer by checking where the car is coming from. If the title is stamped “salvage” or is from a condition recently damaged by flooding, ask questions. Consider purchasing a vehicle history report, which includes information if the car has ever been labeled as “salvage” or “flood damaged” in any condition.
Check the dashboard carefully
Examine all gauges to make sure they are correct and that there is no sign of water. Look for indications that the dashboard may have been removed. Check the electronic components. Test lights, wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater, and air conditioner several times to make sure they are working. Also, bend some wires under the dash to see if they bend or crack, as wet wires become brittle as they dry.
Check interior spaces
Look in the trunk, glove box, and under the seats and dashboard for signs of mud, rust, or water damage. Check the open drainage holes in the bottom of the vehicle. Check the condition of the fabrics. Look for discolored, discolored, or moldy upholstery and rugs. Recently washed rugs can be of concern. Carpet that has been replaced may be too loose or may not match the color of the interior.
Get a vehicle history report from a database service
The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) free database lists flood damage and other information. But take note: NICB reports are only useful if the car was insured. If the owner of a flood damaged and uninsured car tries to sell it on the open market and you are the buyer, you may never know there is a problem until some things like the electrical system deteriorate.
Remember to check under the hood
Check for standing water, mud or grit in the spare tire housing or around the engine compartment under the hood.
Do an odor test
A strong smell of cleaners and disinfectants is a sign that there may be a mold or odor problem.
Find the dealer
Always check the dealer’s BBB company profile on BBB.org.
Get an inspection
Before buying a used car, consider having a pre-purchase inspection done by a trusted mechanic.
If you’ve been the victim of a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker.
Dennis Horton is the director of the Rockford regional office of the Better Business Bureau.