It’s time to purchase a vehicle. You’ve saved money, researched the safest ones, and now you’re ready. New would be great, but many of us are choosing to save money and buy a previously owned vehicle. You know you need to be careful and have the car checked out, but did you do an inspection for flood damage?
Attorneys general in numerous states are warning consumers to be aware of the “flood” of water damaged cars after large storms and hurricanes. In fact, a used car dealer in New Jersey was recently sentenced to prison for selling vehicles damaged in Superstorm Sandy. The scheme involved a Motor Vehicles Commission employee who doctored titles for eight flood affected vehicles. To complicate the crime, consumer-watch groups warn that flood damaged cars are often sold in states far from where the damage occurred.
Buying a car that was submerged means real problems that can haunt you for years. Water is the enemy to just about everything in an automobile – destroying electronics, fouling fuel lines, rusting engines, brakes and transmissions, not to mention promoting dangerous mold and mildew.
So how can you protect yourself against buying a water logged vehicle? Some obvious ways are to use your nose to detect musty odors or the heavy lingering aroma of cleaners and disinfectants used to mask mold odors. You should also order a vehicle history report from a government data base like the National Motor Vehicle Title Information Service, or one of the reputable private company like CarFax or Autocheck, and look for signs of water damage or dirt in the dashboard, carpets or trunk.
Other signs of water damage are:
- Rusty door hinges and trunk latches
- Silt or mud under seats, in glove compartments or windows
- Brittle and bent wiring under the dashboard
- Electronics that flicker or don’t work
- Fog or moisture beads in interior lights
If you suspect you unknowingly bought a water damaged vehicle, contact your state attorney general’s office for help. The Federal Trade Commission also has a wealth of resources for used car buyers who fear they are victims of fraud.
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