Flood-damaged vehicles may also be trickling into the used car market, which can leave an unsuspecting buyer stuck with a malfunctioning car. Fortunately, there are several simple ways to check for car damage.
Here’s what you need to know about title washing, and some tips on how to avoid buying damaged cars, according to
tend to declare them eligible for salvage and write them off. Even if the vehicles aren't a total loss, they’re expensive to repair.
This is why unscrupulous car dealers hide flood damage in a car's history. They take advantage of different state rules by moving salvage cars across state borders. In the new state, a car that was labeled flood-damaged can get a clean title.
This is called title washing, and it’s particularly common right after large floods. Buyers might not know what’s wrong with their car until they finally take it to a mechanic for costly repairs.
If you go to the National Insurance Crime Bureau website, you can enter a used car's vehicle identification number, or VIN, in their VINCheck service for free. This takes data from insurers and will report if a car was declared salvaged or a total loss.
You can also get a full vehicle history report from AutoCheck through Experian’s online portal. These reports will provide all the important information about branding and registration. Scammers won't be able to hide their title washing from these sites because they track the car's entire history.
Once you can physically see the car, inspect it thoroughly. Flooding leaves particular signs on the underside, in the trunk, and on the engine bay. You can decide if it’s worth taking the car from there.
might have dried onto the underside of the car or in the alternator crevices. Particles might have gotten into the trunk and small recesses in the engine bay.
The most telling signs of water damage are waterlogged headlights and malfunctioning electrical components. Flood water can damage wiring, so look for visible corrosion on the electronics under the car and in the engine.
Avoiding a damaged car takes savvy, but now you have the knowledge to make a smart purchase. Once you do find a good car, you’ll also want to keep it protected with good car insurance.
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Hannah is a recent college graduate with a degree in English Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University. Currently located in Washington State, she's interested in applying her craft in news areas across new subjects, using her skills to stretch her comfort zone. Outside of writing articles about cars and insurance, Hannah is drawn to Creative Nonfiction writing, though she loves a good fiction book. In her free time, Hannah enjoys reading, playing basketball, sunny hikes in the PNW, and flexing her creative muscles through art.