Be­ware of flood-dam­aged ve­hi­cles in the wake of re­cent storms

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page -

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Chris Carr today cau­tioned Ge­or­gians in the mar­ket for a ve­hi­cle to be aware that many of the flood-dam­aged cars from Hur­ri­canes Har­vey and Irma will be re­cy­cled into the used car mar­ket. Such ve­hi­cles are of­ten sold at auc­tion and then wind up on used car lots. Some­times the ve­hi­cle’s ti­tle will in­di­cate “sal­vage” or “to­taled,” but some­times dis­hon­est deal­ers reti­tle the ve­hi­cle in an­other state and do not dis­close the dam­age on the ve­hi­cle’s ti­tle as re­quired, a prac­tice known as “ti­tle wash­ing.”

“Con­sumers should al­ways have a used ve­hi­cle in­spected prior to pur­chase,” Carr said. “This is es­pe­cially true at this time as an in­creased num­ber of flood­dam­aged ve­hi­cles will be en­ter­ing the mar­ket­place in the wake of re­cent nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.”

If a ve­hi­cle’s body, en­gine, trans­mis­sion or me­chan­i­cal parts have been sub­merged in wa­ter, it will prob­a­bly have elec­tri­cal prob­lems, and the brakes, airbags and com­puter sys­tem may be im­paired. Un­for­tu­nately, this dam­age may not be read­ily ap­par­ent, es­pe­cially to the av­er­age con­sumer.

To help pro­tect con­sumers from un­know­ingly pur­chas­ing a flood-dam­aged ve­hi­cle, the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of­fers the fol­low­ing tips:

Check the ve­hi­cle’s his­tory by go­ing to the Na­tional Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Ti­tle In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem (www.ve­hi­cle­his­tory.gov) and en­ter­ing the Ve­hi­cle Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Num­ber (VIN). This is the only data­base where all auto in­sur­ers, sal­vage pools that auc­tion off to­taled cars, junk­yards, re­cy­clers and self-in­sured en­ti­ties such as rental car com­pa­nies in all 50 states are re­quired by law to re­port to­tal loss ve­hi­cles within 30 days.

Look at the ti­tle. Al­ways ask to see the ti­tle of the car be­fore you sign any­thing or hand over any money. Check to see whether the car has been branded as “flood”, “junk”, “sal­vage”, “re­built” or “re­con­structed”.

Look for signs of flood dam­age. A musty odor, wa­ter marks or faded fab­rics may be a sign of flood dam­age. A strong deter­gent smell in­side the car or in the en­gine may in­di­cate that some­one is try­ing to mask a mildew smell. Rust and metal flak­ing are an­other red flag. Check the up­hol­stery, dash­board, glove com­part­ment, trunk, in­ner doors, en­gine area, and un­der the seats and car­pet­ing for mud or silt. Look for drainage holes be­neath the car. Test and retest the ig­ni­tion, lights, wipers, air con­di­tioner, heater and all ac­ces­sories.

Get the car in­spected by a me­chanic. Have the ve­hi­cle thor­oughly ex­am­ined by an in­de­pen­dent me­chanic be­fore you sign a con­tract or pay any money. If the dealer re­fuses to let you do that, go else­where.

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