In the months since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, flood-damaged vehicles continue to be sold across the state -- many even showing up in our area.
While it is not that difficult to hide flood damage that is considered "cosmetic," repairing an engine that has water damage is harder to do. Sometimes, a dishonest individual or business may choose not to reveal the fact that the damage occurred, leaving the buying with a load of potential problems down the road.
So, how does one determine whether or not a car is flood-damaged? According to the Better Business Bureau, the process begins with a few simple steps:
Thoroughly inspect the vehicle. Be sure to check all gauges on the dashboard to make sure they are accurate, and inspect the trunk, glove compartments, seats and dashboard for signs of mud, rust or water damage. Signs of water damage may include: Water stains, mildew or sand under the carpet, floor mats and dashboard; Disolored, faded or stained upholstery; Carpeting that has been replaced and may fit too loosely or may not match the interior color; Fogging inside the headlights, taillights and gauges.
Do a smell test. A heavy aroma of cleaners or disinfectants isc often a sign of someone's attempt to mask a mold or odor issue. Smell for musty odors resulting from mildew, and check for a well-defined line, or watermark, that could cause the odor.
Self-test the features inside the vehicle. 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, since wet wires become brittle upon drying and can crack or fail at any time.
Have a mechanic inspect the vehicle. Before buying any used car, always get a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic. Have the mechanic inspect the car’s mechanical and electrical components and systems that contain fluids for water damage. The extra cost may save you money in the long run. Use the BBB to find a trustworthy mechanic and visit a company’s Business Review page.
Ask to see the title of the vehicle. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the car came from a flood-damaged state and if the title is stamped “salvage.” If the car’s history seems suspicious, ask the dealer or individual directly if the car has been damaged by flood water. Also, if you are purchasing a used car from a dealership, be sure to check out the reliability of the dealer by visiting www.BBB.org.
If you suspect a dealer is knowingly selling a flood-damaged car or a salvaged vehicle as a “good-condition” used car, contact your auto insurance company or local law enforcement agency. You should also report it to the BBB and make a note at the BBB Scam Tracker as this could help alert others to a rip-off.
Got a question for the BBB? Contact Regional Director Kelly Trevino at email@example.com.
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