WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWLP) – Recent hurricanes caused flooding in some areas of the country and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning consumers about the influx of water-damaged vehicles in the used car market.
After a natural disaster, storm-damaged cars are sometimes cleaned up and taken out of state for sale. The FTC is offering some tips on what to look for when doing research before buying a used car:
- Check for signs and smells of flood damage. Is there mud or sand under the seats or dashboard? Is there rust around the doors? Is the carpet loose, stained, or mismatched? Do you smell mold or decay — or an odor of strong cleaning products — in the car or trunk?
- Check for a history of flood damage. The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NCIB) free database will show if a car was flood-damaged, stolen but not recovered, or otherwise declared as salvaged — but only if the car was insured when it was damaged.
- Get a vehicle history report. Use this website to get free information about a vehicle’s title, most recent odometer reading, and condition. For a fee, you can get other reports with additional information, like accident and repair history.
- Get help from an independent mechanic. A mechanic can inspect the car for water damage that can slowly destroy mechanical and electrical systems and cause rust and corrosion.
- Report fraud. If you suspect a dealer is knowingly selling a storm-damaged car or a salvaged vehicle as a good-condition used car, contact the NICB. Also tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov, and tell your state attorney general.