ROCKFORD – The Better Business Bureau is warning the public to be on the lookout for flood-damaged cars that may start showing up at local auto auctions.
Recent flooding from New Orleans to New York and rains from Tropical Storm Nicholas may lead scammers to attempt to pawn vehicles as standard used cars.
These vehicles also appear at used car dealerships and in the classifieds and social media.
Local Better Business Bureau Dennis Horton said unsuspecting consumers, especially those who live in parts of the country not affected by hurricanes or floods, are often fooled by cool upholstery, new carpets and great prices.
“The current lack of available used cars poses an even greater threat to consumers, but a major opportunity for scammers,” Horton said.
Horton said that after owners of damaged cars settle with insurance companies, the vehicles are sometimes refurbished and resold.
Flooded cars are often transported far beyond the original region where the major flood or storm occurred to places where consumers may be less aware of the damage and warning signs to look for.
“Often, middle-man buyers intentionally hide a car’s history as a flood-damaged vehicle through what’s called ‘title washing’ and sell it to an unsuspecting buyer in undamaged condition. disaster,” added Horton.
Among the many mechanical problems that flooded cars face, corrosion can take years to appear, which can lead to 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’re in the market for a used car, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) strongly urges caution.
“Be prepared for unscrupulous businesses and individuals who may try to sell flood-damaged cars as standard used cars, without revealing the vehicle’s history,” Horton said.
The BBB has the following tips for car buyers to determine if a used car is flood damaged.
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 “recovery” or is from a recently flood-damaged state, ask questions.
Consider purchasing a vehicle history report, which includes information if the car has ever been tagged as “salvaged” or “flood damaged” in any state.
Check the dashboard carefully. Examine all gauges to make sure they are accurate and there are no signs of water. Look for indications that the dashboard may have been deleted. Check the electronic components.
Test the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater, and air conditioner several times to make sure they work. Also, flex 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 dash for signs of mud, rust, or water damage.
Check for open drain holes in the bottom of the vehicle. Check the condition of the fabrics. Look for faded, faded, or moldy upholstery and rugs. Recently washed carpets can be cause for concern. Carpet that has been replaced may be too loose or may not match the interior color.
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 beware: NICB reports are only useful if the car was insured. If the owner of an uninsured flood-damaged car tries to sell it on the open market and you’re the buyer, you may never know there’s a problem until things happen. as the electrical system deteriorate.
Don’t forget to check under the hood. Look for standing water, mud or grit in the spare tire well or around the engine compartment under the hood.
Do a smell test. A strong aroma of cleaners and disinfectants is a sign that there may be a mold or odor problem. Research the dealer. Always check the dealer’s BBB business profile on BBB.org. Get an inspection. Before buying a used car, consider having a pre-purchase inspection done by a trusted mechanic.