How to avoid being duped into buying a flood-damaged used car – NJ.com


If you are searching for a used car, be sure to check for flood damage from the recent storms brought on by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) issued a release last week warning prospective used-car buyers to be careful when making a purchase to ensure they aren’t being tricked into buying a damaged vehicle.

“As floodwaters recede, many flood-damaged vehicles emerge, providing an opportunity for fraudsters to prey on innocent used-car buyers,” the NICB said.

Here’s what to look for.

After a storm, many flood-damaged vehicles emerge on the used-car buyer market thanks to unscrupulous car dealers and other individuals who try to pass off their used car as one that has not suffered any flood damage.

When a car is partially or fully flooded, the car’s interior, engine and electronic components can be damaged.

Most of the time, the insurance companies deem these vehicles to be total losses and the vehicles are then just used for parts.

But sometimes, a state agency can evaluate the car, mark it as flood-damaged, and allow it to re-enter the marketplace, according to CarFax.

Here’s how to tell if a car has suffered flood damage, per Carfax:

  • A musty odor in the interior, which sellers sometimes try to cover with a strong air-freshener
  • Upholstery or carpeting that may be loose, new, stained or doesn’t seem to match the rest of the interior
  • Damp carpets
  • Rust around doors, under the dashboard, on the pedals or inside the hood and trunk latches
  • Mud or silt in the glove compartment or under the seats
  • Brittle wires under the dashboard
  • Fog or moisture beads in the interior lights, exterior lights or instrument panel

The NICB has a tool called VINCheck that allows potential buyers to check a vehicle for “red flags” such as theft, accident damage, flooding or if the vehicle was written off as a total loss by an insurance company.

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The NICB also recommends that potential buyers purchase used cars from a reputable dealer, inspect the car for things such as water stains and look under the hood to see if some parts show signs of rust or other signs of oxidation.

Related stories about weather:

Does car insurance cover flood damage?

Can a flooded car be fixed or saved?

Should I purchase flood insurance? Here is what to know.

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Katherine Rodriguez can be reached at krodriguez@njadvancemedia.com. Have a tip? Tell us at nj.com/tips.



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