Consumers Need To Be Wary Of Water-Damaged Cars Folllowing Heavy Rains

They can be sold as used cars by unscrupulous dealers.


Washington DC (KM). The water has  receded from the heavy rains earlier this week, but it left behind a lot of water-damaged cars. The Consumer Federation of America is reminding residents that a lot of unscrupulous dealers get a hold of these vehicle and sell them, without telling customers where they came from.

CFA Executive Director Jack Gillis says there are ways to protect yourself. You can start by copying down the VIN number of the vehicle that interests you. It’s located on the dashboard and visible through the window. Then you type in that number with the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System established by the US Department of Justice. Gillis says you will pay a small fee, but it’s a  comprehensive database. You can also check out the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) or CarFax which both provide free flood history information.

“However, there’s a lot of ‘title washing’ that goes on. There’s a lot misrepresentation in this world of used cars so it’s not a 100% guarantee,” says Gillis.

In that case, he says you need to do your own inspection. The first thing to do is to use your nose. “If it smells musty or damp,” Gillis says. “Look for dirt or mud or water stains in unusual places. Open up the trunk and pull back the fabric that’s on the base of the trunk and see if you see anything that looks unusual.”

Something that could look unusual is mud, sand or stains on the spare tire and jack equipment, and the well under the spare tire.

GIllis says try all the power options, such as the windows, locks, seats, moon roof, automatic doors, wipers, window washers, lights and the air conditioning system. If they don’t work or sound funny, or operate erratically, be careful. Also, trying the sound system and listen for any crackling or speaker failure.

If the car you’re interested in has these problems, the CFA says don’t buy it. Walk away. “You can never get the smell or problem out of the car,” says Gillis. “Especially with electrical issues, they may not show up for a while. Or disintegration of some of the issues associated with the brakes or the transmission. If there;s water in the transmission, for example, it may work for a while and suddenly fail.”

But if you buy that car, and it has problems later, Gillis says there may not be too much you can do if you purchased it “as is.” “However, if you buy it from one of the major retailers or a dealer that’s selling the vehicle as a certified car, you do get somewhat of a warranty, and  a flood vehicles certainly violates the warranty,” he says.


By Kevin McManus