Many parts of the Lone Star State are still recovering from last month’s devastating flash floods. The after-effects of the storm will likely be felt for years, and in one way, they could have an impact on the rest of the country: as many as 10,000 flood-damaged cars and trucks could be resold out of state.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that already, about 2,500 flooded vehicles have been towed to a processing facility in Houston owned by Copart, a company that works with insurers to salvage and resell vehicles. Most of those will be sold for parts.
But there’s still a chance that flooded vehicles could be purchased on the cheap, cleaned up, taken out of state and then given a swapped VIN and new title with no indication they were damaged by floods, the bureau reports. Buyers could unwittingly end up with a badly-damaged used car they were told runs just fine.
Via The Dallas Morning News, here are some ways to tell if a used car has flood damage:
Obviously, a musty or mildew odor in the car’s interior should raise suspicions. Also, look for water stains on interior trim and multiple warning lights on the dashboard – from electrical shorts caused by water.
In addition, check for moisture in the vehicle’s headlamps, tail lamps and other exterior lights.
While you’re going over the exterior, pop the hood and look for mud, grass or leaves in the engine compartment, or rust on engine parts, nuts and bolts.
The bureau says buyers should be especially careful in the immediate weeks and months after a disaster like the one in Texas. They should also have their vehicle checked by a mechanic before making a purchase. (I’ll add that this is always a good idea when you buy a used car.)
Most insurers report to the bureau whether a vehicle has ever been declared a total loss, salvaged or stolen. You can search by VIN at www.nicb.org/theft_and_fraud_awareness/vincheck/vincheck.
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