When floodwaters recede, they often leave behind damaged cars and that’s where trouble can begin for car buyers. After the owners, which are sometimes new car dealerships, settle up with their insurance companies, the flood-damaged cars are refurbished, the title is “washed”, and the vehicles is then resold to an unsuspecting buyer in another state unaffected by the disaster. Electrical and mechanical problems often occur long after the seller is gone, leaving the next car owner with an unreliable car and no recourse against the seller.
The best way to protect yourself is to get a complete vehicle history report, including the states in which the vehicle has been registered. It should reveal any title branding for flood damage, even if the title was “washed” by moving it through states with differing regulations. Another good, low-cost starting point is to get a flood-title check from Carfax. However it will only answer whether the vehicle had flood damage reported. The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, operated by the Department of Justice, has a number of reports you can buy from third-party companies, but they do little beyond what the Carfax check provides. We Florida Financial members are invited to come to We Drive and receive a free Carfax report for any vehicle, even from another dealership!
In some cases, flood damage might not show up on a vehicle history report. However, there are ways a trained person can spot flood damage. For example, unusual orders inside the car can be a giveaway. Musty or moldy odors are a sign of mildew buildup. Another sign is discolored carpeting which can indicate that water stood in the vehicle for a long time. Exterior signs may include fogging inside headlamps or taillights. Your best bet is always to call or visit We Drive for a free assessment of any vehicle you’re considering!