Normally water is your vehicle’s best friend. Water helps your cooling system regulate the motors temperature. Water helps your car get shiny clean making it look tip top! However, water can also be your vehicle’s worst nightmare. Flood waters can damage your car and make your tip top vehicle practically worthless in just a matter of a seconds.
While the law states that the titles of flood-damaged cars must be marked as salvage to warn future buyers, cars damaged by flood waters are sometimes sold without a salvage title. This is called Title Washing. Dishonest car sellers work around the law by getting damaged cars for cheap from states that do not require this disclosure and then transporting these vehicles to a different state and applying for a new, untainted title.
The fact is, flood-damaged cars that have been refurbished can be hard to identify apart from their truthful documentation and about half of them are resold. Here are some ways you can avoid this scam.
1. Buy from a reputable dealer
Known car dealers aren’t going to risk selling a known flood-damaged car to unsuspecting customers. They value their reputation with their customers and stay away from shady deals like this.
2. Keep clear from once-in-a-lifetime deals
Always check the list price for the vehicle model you are checking out. If you get an offer for half price of the going rate, that would be a red flag.
3. Get the car inspected
Have a licensed mechanic look over the vehicle thoroughly.
4. Inspect the car yourself
You can apply your own keen eye and look for these kinds of things:
Condensation inside the speedometer glass
Rust damage inside the door track or rusted bolts under the seats
Stains on the upholstery
Water lines in the engine compartment or trunk
Deposits of sand under the seats
Mildew or musty smell when you first open the car door
Brittle wires under the dashboard
5. Get a background check of the car
The NICB provides a free online tool called VINCheck to help identify if a car has been damaged.
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