Flood-damaged vehicles sold by unscrupulous sellers | National Insurance Crimes Bureau
September 26, 2011 · 1:42 PM
Floods have devastated large sections of the nation this year, including floods from the Mississippi River in the Midwest and South, the Missouri River in North Dakota and Iowa and Hurricane Irene along the East Coast.
Although those places are far from the Pacific Northwest, flood-damaged vehicles from those areas that should go to the junkyard can end up on local car lots to be sold by unaware car dealers to unsuspecting buyers.
According to the National Insurance Crimes Bureau (NICB), a “flood vehicle” is defined as a vehicle that has been completely or partially submerged in water to the extent that its body and mechanical component parts have been damaged.
Unscrupulous people buy the vehicles, clean them up to hide the flood damage then ship them to states unaffected by flooding to be sold as used cars. They also do not disclose the damage on the title document, which is a crime called “title washing.”
Vehicles sold with pre-existing damage are not covered under a standard Auto Insurance policy. If you buy a used vehicle and later discover that it was damaged from being submerged in flood waters, your Auto Insurance will not cover the cost of needed repairs.
“You have to invest some time to find a reliable used car,” said Karl Newman, president of NW Insurance Council. “Checking VIN numbers is a great start, but, whenever there is wide-spread flooding, you have to take extra precautions to avoid getting stuck with a car that falls apart around you.”
If you are planning to buy a used vehicle, it’s important to know how to look for flood damage. NW Insurance Council and the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) offer the following suggestions on how to spot a flood car:
- Choose a reputable car dealer. Check with the Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to find several in your area.
- Look for mildew, debris and silt in places where it wouldn't normally be found, such as under the carpeting in the trunk, or around the engine compartment.
- Check for rust on screws and other metal parts.
- Look for water stains or faded upholstery as well as discoloration of seat belts and door panels.
- Inspect the vehicle for dampness in the floor and carpeting and moisture on the inside of the instrument panel.
- Check for a moldy odor or an intense smell of Lysol or deodorizer being used to cover up an odor problem.
For more information about how to spot a flood car, visit the NICB website for more tips. Also, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System offers an online tool for consumers to access important vehicle history information.
For more information about insurance, contact NW Insurance Council at (800) 664-4942 or visit www.nwinsurance.org.
NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education organization funded by member insurance companies serving Washington, Oregon and Idaho.