BBB Warns Against Buying Flood-Damaged Cars

August 11th, 2011
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Water Damage insurance

The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning to used car buyers about the possible re-sale of flooded cars. With a variety of areas in the U.S. susceptible to flooding during severe storms, everyone needs to be aware of the dangers that could potentially occur if you were to buy a used car.

When a vehicle sustains substantial water damage, the insurance company may declare it as a total loss. Once it becomes declared a total loss, it should be sent to the junkyard never to be seen again.

Unfortunately, that is not the case; most of the damaged cars wind up being sold at auction as ’salvage’ vehicles, then wind up on the lot of a sketchy used car dealer or in the classified ads for sale. After a detailed cleaning and new interior, these cars may look just as good as any other car… on the outside.

Nevertheless, buying a car that’s been damaged due to flood waters can have hidden internal problems such as computer glitches, corroded wiring, airbags that no longer inflate and not to mention the possible mold and mildew, plus an abundance of other issues.

The BBB has provided these 10 tips to help you better identify previous water damaged cars vs. the good clean ones:

  • Get a vehicle history report based on its VIN number.
  • Ask to see the title of a used car. 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.”
  • Check all gauges on the dashboard to make sure they are accurate, and look for signs of water.
  • Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery and carpeting. Carpeting that has been replaced may fit too loosely or may not match the interior color.
  • Test the equipment including lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work.
  • Check the interior including the trunk, glove compartment, and beneath the seats and dash for signs of mud, rust or water damage.
  • 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.
  • Check for a well-defined line, or ‘watermark’, and for musty odors resulting from mildew.
  • Ask the dealer directly if the car has been damaged by floodwater.
  • Check out the reliability of the used car dealer by contacting the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org

Before you decide to purchase a used car, you will want to get a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic. You could save yourself a lot of money in the long run if any major problems are discovered.

For more information, please visit www.bbb.org.

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