Literally thousands of cars are submerged each fall during floods. During post-flood cleanups, auto insurance claims adjusters "total" thousands of flood-damaged vehicles-meaning the vehicles are considered a total loss.
Unfortunately, that doesn't stop unscrupulous sellers from putting these cars back up for sale. In many instances, these mechanically unsound and frame-damaged vehicles undergo minor repairs and are resold with no notice to the buyer.
CARFAX, an MSN Autos partner and a leading provider of vehicle history information, has compiled the following tips to help consumers avoid cars with flood damage.
- Check the interior-Examine the trunk, glove compartment, dashboard and beneath the seats for signs of mud, rust or silt. Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery and carpeting. If the carpeting doesn't match the interior or fits loosely, it may have been replaced.
- Turn on-Start the ignition key to make sure all warning lights including the airbag and ABS lights work. Check all gauges on the dashboard to make sure they are accurate.
- Equipment test-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.
- Take a whiff-Smell for musty odors resulting from mildew and look for a well-defined line or watermark.
- Visit-Go to a trusted mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection. Always get vehicles checked BEFORE handing over any money.
- Ask for a detailed vehicle history report-CARFAX Vehicle History Reports can reveal many hidden problems in a vehicle's past, including flood titles and will indicate if a vehicle has been titled/registered in at-risk areas during flood and hurricane seasons. If the seller does not offer a report, use the 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) available on the dashboard to check the car's history at CARFAX. Start with a Free CARFAX Flood Damage Check which will identify any vehicle that was last registered in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster area following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
CARFAX uses its computerized database of 3.5 billion vehicle records to provide a detailed history report on virtually every registered used car and light truck since 1981 and can alert consumers to problems that can severely affect the safety, performance and value of a used vehicle.