Used car buyers need to be aware of flood-damaged vehicles: BBB Shares Tips on KVOA

If you are in the market for a used car, you need to avoid vehicles that have suffered flood damage. Between the devastation of our local monsoons, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, the number of affected vehicles being sold will increase.
September 18, 2017

Used car buyers need to be aware of flood-damaged vehicles

Posted: Sep 18, 2017 10:31 AM MSTUpdated: Sep 18, 2017 10:32 AM MST
David Goldman / AP
David Goldman / AP

A warning from the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona: used car buyers beware.

According to Beth Dannheim, American Family Insurance Agent, "I've heard estimates that consumers should expect the number of vehicles with flood damage to be in the tens of thousands following hurricanes Harvey and Irma. A flood damaged vehicle salvaged by an insurance company will often show up on a vehicle history report. It's too soon to tell, but we should be prepared for the reality that many of those cars will not show up on any type of vehicle history report due to lack of comprehensive coverage."

Insurance companies tend to declare flooded vehicles as a loss based on the extensive damage. Rather than delivering the car to a junkyard, it could be sold as a salvage vehicle at auctions, in used car lots, online or in classified ads. Individuals may sell their damaged vehicles in the same manner.

"When looking at a vehicle, you may not be immediately told or aware that it has suffered water damage, especially after detailed cleaning," said Susann Miller, Communications and Consumer Affairs Director at BBB Serving Southern Arizona. "There is the potential of hidden issues such as mold, mildew, rusty under carriage and wiring, electronic malfunctions and safety features." 

Before hitting the market, BBB officials suggest these tips:
· Get a vehicle history report based on its VIN number but note that flood damaged vehicles that did not have comprehensive coverage and are sold by private parties will not necessarily show up on a vehicle history report. 
· Ask to see the title of a used car. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the car came from a flood-damaged area and if the title is stamped 'salvage.' 
· Check all gauges on the dashboard to make sure they are accurate, and look for signs of water. Electronic malfunction is just about the biggest concern for a vehicles with previous flood damage.
· Test the equipment including lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, sound system, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work. Electronic malfunction.
· Run your finger along the dash, under the dash and glove compartment, and along the middle console checking for a soapy film. It's very difficult to remove soap from the interior of a vehicle; excessive evidence of soap can be a sign of previous flood damage.
· Flex some wires under the dash to see if they bend of crack, since wet wires become brittle upon drying and can crack or fail at any time.
· Check the interior of the trunk (including under spare tire), glove compartment, and beneath the seats and dashboard for signs of mud, rust or water damage. 
· Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery and carpeting. Carpeting that has been replaced may fit too loosely or may not match the interior color.
· Check for a well-defined line, or 'watermark,' and for musty odors resulting from mildew.
· Check the car's dealer's BBB Business Profile to see if they have a history of complaints.
· Ask the dealer directly if the car has been damaged by floodwater.

If you are the victim of a scam, please report it via our BBB Scam Tracker at Be a hero to your community by warning others. Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Arizona * 520.888.5353  *