Avoid buying a flooded vehicle
There is a high demand for used cars, but stay away from those that were underwater.
Climate change is causing stronger and more frequent storms and floods . With the flooding of more places, there are more vehicles damaged by water. And those damages do not disappear when the vehicle is towed.
As the demand for used cars remains high, flooded vehicles are more likely to return to the general market across the country. Car buyers need to be vigilant and take steps to avoid buying them.
“As we’ve seen after Hurricane Ida and other storms, flooding can cause significant damage to vehicles,” says Tully Lehman, public affairs manager for the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). “Today’s vehicles, with all the sensors and electronics that help ‘make them work,’ are susceptible to flooding. While manufacturers do a great job of waterproofing connectors and so on, these systems often don’t withstand the rigors of being submerged in water for an extended period of time. “
Flood damage can be difficult to detect. Water can seep into areas out of sight, and identifying a flood repaired vehicle isn’t necessarily easy. After all, a thorough cleaning is good practice for selling any car.
In general, a flooded vehicle shouldn’t be on your shopping list. Even if a seller is candid about the damage, offering you lots of repair tests, plus a huge discount, that vehicle is likely to bring mechanical and other problems down the road.
“People with asthma and a mold allergy may find their asthma worsened when exposed to mold in a flooded vehicle,” says Dr. James Li, an allergist at Mayo Clinic. “This can be a major problem, because mold concentrations can increase in an enclosed, confined space.”
The route of flooded vehicles back on the road
It is not illegal to sell a flooded vehicle. What is illegal is for a dealer not to disclose it, and it is simply dishonest if a seller does not knowingly provide the information.
Insurance companies ship flooded vehicles to a junkyard, recycling center, or other final destination. These sites are required to report the identification number (VIN) of the vehicles they receive to the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). Destinations such as salvage auctions provide the information to NMVTIS, but do not destroy the vehicle.
If someone repairs the vehicle and has it inspected, the car can legally get back on the road. However, it will have a label stating Salvage, Rebuilt, Flood, or something similar in the title. The purpose of the tag is to track the vehicle so buyers know that it has been involved in an accident.
It becomes more complicated when flood damage is not covered by a basic auto insurance policy or the damage is not enough to declare the total loss of the vehicle. In this case, the burden of “saving” the vehicle falls on the owner. After an incident like a flood, many people are just looking to get as much money as possible in order to recover. Someone with a bad reputation can buy a flooded vehicle before something negative appears on the title and then resell it anywhere in the country.
That is why it is important that buyers review the documentation in detail and look for rust, water stains, mud or sand in hidden places inside.
How to Identify the Warning Signs
It begins by examining the permanent record of a used car using its VIN. This 17-character code is unique to each vehicle that manufacturers have sold in the United States for 40 years and is used in the title deed of all licensed private vehicles. The VIN is usually located on a plate that can be seen through the base of the windshield.
The free VINCheck tool (in English) of the NCIB allows consumers to enter a VIN code and identify if a car is considered stolen or has a rating of rescue or flood title. There are also paid services that offer more comprehensive vehicle histories. Both the VINCheck site and the Government’s NMVTIS site provide reliable links.
If you don’t feel comfortable checking the VIN in front of the owner or seller, write down the number and do your home research. No legitimate seller should object to you knowing the VIN, and it is essential that the information matches the vehicle you are looking at.
“If you see a vehicle you’d like to buy and they tell you it’s a 2006 Honda Accord in blue, but when you look at the VIN it says it’s 2004 or it’s black, you’ll know better what the seller is selling,” says Lehman. . “It could be an honest mistake on your part, or it might not. In this case, it is better to walk away. “
A full VIN check not only provides a record of what the vehicle should be, but also where it was registered and for how long. Even if a vehicle escapes the mark in the title, it cannot escape time. See if the vehicle is titled out of state in someone else’s name. Perhaps the current owner has had the vehicle for a short time and the previous owner had it at the time and place of a hurricane or other water event. That’s a great red flag for a relocated flooded vehicle.
The VIN provides a reliable basis, but it is not foolproof. Individual homeowners may have made their own repairs and failed to report the flood to the local DMV. Or a skilled scammer can locate a similar vehicle that has clean information and clone the VIN so that the damaged vehicle appears to be the good vehicle.
So make sure to have a mechanic inspect the vehicle prior to purchase. He will know what the signs of flooding are and where to look for telltale damage. Mechanics recognize the signs of corrosion on everything from screws to electrical connectors, and they know where there should never be water.