Thanks to major hurricanes like Superstorm Sandy, it's estimated that at least half a million U.S. vehicles have been damaged by floods in recent years.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous vehicle owners and dealers are making cosmetic repairs to these flood-damaged cars and selling them to customers who have no idea that they've been damaged, Pennsylvania's Attorney General warns.
Unsuspecting customers are buying these vehicles at seemingly good prices only to discover costly repairs a short time later for things like non-functioning airbags, engines, brakes, and electrical system damage.
How to Spot a Flood-Damaged Vehicle
Sometimes, a visual inspection will reveal signs that a car has been in a flood. You may also have to do some independent research about a car's history. Some tips to spot a flood-damaged vehicle, as provided by the Pennsylvania Attorney General, include:
- Looking inside the trunk and spare tire for evidence of moisture, silt, or corrosion;
- Checking the engine for moisture damage, water or grit in the engine compartment;
- Looking for dirt or dried mud under the dashboard or in air vents;
- Checking under the floorboard carpet for water residue or stain marks;
- Looking for signs of mismatched carpeting or seat covers;
- Looking for rust on screws, door hinges, or seat springs;
- Examining the underside of the vehicle for rust;
- Being wary of someone trying to sell a vehicle below its market value; and
- Checking the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) database for vehicles affected by hurricanes.
Already Purchased a Flood-Damaged Vehicle?
If you have already unknowingly purchased a flood-damaged vehicle, there are certain steps you can take. First, you can file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Attorney General. The AG's office can take steps on your behalf and seek justice.
In addition, you should consider contacting your local police and reporting the fraud.
Finally, you may want to talk to a local attorney to figure out how to recover your money and sue for other possible damages.