Flood Damaged Vehicles? Check Your Purchase Carefully

Along with all of the responsibilities that a car buyer has to extensively research their purchase, there is another new issue for many of today’s buyers. A recent press release from the American Automobile Association on September 26 is warning American consumers that as recent floods hit parts of the East Coast, it’s likely that many of the new and used cars that show up on dealers lots or in private sales may have hidden flood damage. AAA contends that flood damaged cars tend to stay in the market for up to a year after major flooding causes huge amounts of water damages. The agency cites Hurricane Katrina as proof that cars affected by flood waters often remain part of the supply chain in both new and used car markets.

Those who own flood damaged vehicles are supposed to disclose their conditions to potential buyers. In some U.S. states, the law requires owners to re-title vehicles as salvaged. But some vehicle owners are getting around this process by a method called title washing, where vehicles are moved to a state with looser restrictions, then re-titled with a clean title that hides the fact of previous flood damage. This problem is more than just fraudulent, it’s dangerous, since undisclosed flood damage can cause vehicles to fail on the road.

AAA offers consumers some basic ways to make sure they don’t buy into hidden liability related to flood damage. These tips include getting a Carfax or other comprehensive vehicle history report, as well as inspecting the vehicle thoroughly. Potential buyers can look under upholstery, inside the dash, and inside lamps or wiring connections to look for dirt and debris that might indicate previous flood damage. They can also take a vehicle to an AAA approved auto shop that will inspect the vehicle for hidden water damage.

We often report on how to get the best deals on financing for new or used vehicles, but this other aspect of car buying is just as important. Do all of the required research, not just to get the best interest rates and lowest MSRP, but to make sure that the product you’re getting is one that has integrity and will stand the test of time.