The fact that a car or truck has been flooded and cleaned or repaired should be shared with prospective buyers. Asking questions and doing a little detective work are necessary to protect against buying a flood-damaged vehicle. First, ask the seller why the vehicle is available for sale. Sometimes it’s best to be blunt by asking whether the vehicle has ever been in an accident or suffered flood damage.
Then take a close look at the car, looking for signs of water damage. If you write down the auto’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), you can use that information to find out the vehicle’s history. A number of Internet sites offer history report services such as the NMVTIS (National Motor Vehicle Title Information system), which facilitates vehicular background checks. Insurance companies are also, voluntarily, reporting full information on cars for which they have paid total losses on due to water damage. Further, either you or a trusted mechanic can inspect the car for the following signs:
A damp or musty odor in the car’s interior
Existence of brittle wiring casing
Debris beneath carpeting floor pads
Water line marks or silt
Undercarriage with spots of rust or evidence of flaking
Rusting of any metal bolts, door hinges or other pieces in a car’s interior (including the car seat springs)
Grass, dirt or debris on a car’s air filter
Any pooling of water or signs of rust in the trunk, spare tire and/or car jack
Evidence of moisture in gauges
Vehicle is being sold with a “lost” title
Be certain to check that all electrical items such as lights, horn, radio/CDs, turn signals and headlights operate properly. Also be on the lookout for signs that a seller is hiding something, such as a used car that has had carpeting or upholstery replaced or a car that was recently painted. Other ways to protect yourself are to insist upon a warranty, refuse to buy any vehicle on an “as is” basis and to take the vehicle out for a test drive.
Remember, besides the cost of the used car, SUV, pick-up or van, you also face the costs of registering and insuring the vehicle. Make sure that the transaction isn’t spoiled by a watery surprise.
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