5/26/2011 1:30 PM ET|
Flooded cars to hit the market
Car shoppers need to be on the lookout even if they don't live anywhere near flood-affected areas. Here's what to look for if you're shopping for a used car.
With rampant flooding along the Mississippi River, many homeowners face total losses of their houses. Another consequence of any major flood is an onslaught of flood-damaged cars that appear on the used-car market, as car owners try to unload their flood-damaged vehicles onto unsuspecting buyers.
Even if you don't live near a flooded area, you can expect flood-damaged cars to make their way to your region.
When a car gets caught in a flood, you might expect that once it dries out it simply sputters to the salvage yard. Think again.
Sometimes flooded cars are totaled by an insurance company, sold through auto-salvage auctions, shipped hundreds of miles away and cleaned up by dealers for resale. Fortunately, you can avoid flood cars and the myriad problems lurking beneath their hoods -- if you know what to look for.
It doesn't take a trained nose to recognize a flood-damaged car. If the car doors have been closed and the car has been sitting out in the sun, the interior will have a strong musty odor. Bad odors are mainly due to moisture-laden carpet padding. Unless the carpet is removed and shampooed, the musty smell will never completely disappear.
However, not all flood cars reveal their true nature by aroma. Unscrupulous car dealers will mask water-damage smells with deodorants and the scent of "fresh mountain air." If that's the case, warning bells should sound in your head, and you should look for other signs of water damage.
Problems imminent with flood cars
A flood-damaged car doesn't always reveal its shortcomings right away. Engine, transmission and wheel and brake damage can develop just weeks after you purchase your "new" car.
If the car was totally submerged, it is wise to walk away from it. The vehicle could have been in sewer water, sandy water or relatively debris-free water. Regardless, if water seeped into the engine or transmission, long-term problems are bound to crop up. For example, if the water carried sand into the engine, misfiring and blown gaskets could be just around the corner.
Additionally, submerged vehicles often develop electrical problems.
There is also a chance you could get sick if you're driving a car that was submerged in sewer water. Unless your dealer removed the vehicle's carpet and padding and disinfected the interior, high bacteria levels are possible.
Can they all be bad?
Not all flood-damaged cars are pariahs. You can still get a quality car if it has been cleaned and restored properly. That includes removing the vehicle's interior, including seats; removing the carpet padding and replacing it; disinfecting the car; changing the seat foam and shampooing the carpet; greasing all electrical connections; and replacing any corroded wires or components.
However, you want to make sure that the vehicle has been repaired properly. Take the car for a pre-purchase inspection to a reputable mechanic before buying it.
Not all car insurance companies will sell you a policy on a flood-titled car, but some may offer to sell you a liability policy but no collision or comprehensive coverage.
If you're suspicious about whether a car you're considering has indeed been in a flood, you can buy a vehicle history from services such as CarFax.com. There's also the free National Motor Vehicle Title Information System and VINCheck from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Keep in mind that the car's title will show that it's been in a flood only if it was officially totaled by an auto insurance company.
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I can "depreciate" your comment on buying new cars. However, buying a new car doesn't always make the most financial sense. Buying a slightly used car with a warranty is usually the best way to go- good job or not. Of course, someone has to buy the new car first so someone else can get the good deal later.
Considering all the laws that politicians have passed over the years - is there not one that requires a dealer/seller to reveal that a car has been in flood water?
Will a "car fax" report show that? Certainly - the dealer/seller would have to give me an "iron clad" paper guarantee that a used car had never been in flood waters.
Carfax may not always report the damage, but pay attention to location. If it was in the areas of flooding during the right time period and your gut says no, walk away. It's not worth the risk.
Oh, and Ronnie, you can enjoy your new cars.... I love people like you. Because you provide those of us who are more sensable with a used car down the road.
DO NOT BELIEVE CARFAX, its full of crap and marginally accurate. I have personally had issues with at least 2 used cars I purchased and both had inaccurate records from CARFAX. I have known people who had purchased cars involved in major accidents and had a clean CarFax history. CarFax is a scam.
I buy cars all over the united states for a mid sized used car dealer. First of all, I run an Auto Check (its like a car fax, it is what all the auctions use for history reports) on every car that I am interested in buying. I will not buy a car that has even been in a wreck. Right after Katrina one of the questions that people asked me all of the time was "do you see alot of flood damaged cars at the auction?" What I told them then is still true today, I have never seen one, nor have I ever see a dealer buy one. The auction is obligated to announce that the car has been in a flood, as a dealer I have the right to send the car back if I get it to my dealership and find out it has been in a flood. Articles like this are nonsense, just some idiot trying to come up with something to write about. What is his next article, "Watch out for cars that have been crushed in a tornado"? Honestly, most dealers borrow money from a bank to buy the cars that they put on their lot, and most banks will not lend a dealer money on a flood damaged vehicle.
My advice take it or leave it: Don't buy a car from a dealer that hesitates to show you a carfax or Auto Check. If something looks wrong walk away. Ask for both a Carfax and an Auto Check, sometimes they are different, but if the dealer bought the car at an auction and it was announced flood, salvage, or frame or unibody damage it will show on an Auto check.
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