Flooding can create enormous damage. And while, say, flooded houses are really hard to relocate or disguise, flooded vehicles offer a tempting opportunity for criminals to defraud unsuspecting consumers. A flood vehicle is one that has been completely or partially submerged, resulting in damage so extensive that it is deemed inoperable.
So what happens to the car after that? In some cases, unscrupulous dealers purchase them as “salvage” at an auto auction and perform superficial (mostly cosmetic) repairs, while leaving the hidden flood damage untouched. They then transport the vehicles to other states and sell them to unsuspecting buyers.
Fortunately, as a consumer, there are a few things you can do to prevent being scammed. For starters, select a reputable car dealer who will furnish a vehicle’s repair record and other documentation. Also, while inspecting a used vehicle, keep an eye open for:
*Recently shampooed carpets.
*Water stains, mildew, sand, or silt under the carpets, headliner cloth, and other hidden spots.
*Rust on screws or other fasteners, especially on the center console or other areas not normally affected by water—and corrosion (white powdery discoloration) of aluminum components.
*Mud or silt deposits inside the spare tire well; as well as behind wiring harnesses, the inside recesses in starter motors, alternators, and other components.
Other steps you can take before putting your hard-earned cash down for a too-good-to-be-true bargain:
*Ask for details about the vehicle’s history and request a CarFax or other used vehicle report from a reputable third-party vendor.
*Inspect the title and ownership papers for any potential or questionable salvage fraud.
*And always take any preowned vehicle to a mechanic you trust to perform a full inspection.