Beware flood damaged cars

If you are planning to buy a car in the near future, watch out. If you are not careful, you could be at risk of buying one that has been damaged by a flood. 

When we have a year with a lot of hurricanes and floods, we tend to hear of people who got duped into purchasing flood damaged vehicles. Quite often it takes a few months for these vehicles to start showing up on the market. And, by that time, many of us have forgotten about floods and hurricanes, and may not be on the lookout for damaged vehicles.

Some of the tell tale signs include a musty smell, carpeting and upholstery that looks stained or matted down, or signs of rust. But, there are also things that you might not notice right away including damaged wires, mud or sand in hard to clean areas, or poor performance of one or more of the car’s systems. Before you agree to a purchase a car, have it checked out by an independent mechanic, and get a Car Fax or Auto Check report on it. Even if a seller offers you a vehicle report, run your own report. 

In some cases, a seller may have washed the title, which means that the car could have been branded as flooded, but the seller registers the car in a state that does not issue a title with a flood branding, and the seller then tries to sell the car with a now “clean” title. Car Fax and Auto Check reports do a good job of following the history of a vehicle and can often tip you off to a problem.

Take pictures and get a written statement from a qualified mechanic listing the type of damage found in the vehicle and the likely cause. If you bought the vehicle from a dealership and you cannot get them to work with you on a resolution, file a complaint with the dealer licensing section of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, or contact our Call 4 Action office for help. But, in some cases, especially if you bought the car from a private seller you may need to get legal help. 

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