Consumer warning: Spotting flood damaged cars

Many flood-damaged vehicles could find their way to Idaho.

Millions of people in Florida and Texas are starting to pick up the pieces after Irma and Harvey. The devastation has prompted a consumer warning for anyone looking to buy a used car. The problem is many of those flooded and damaged cars could likely find their way to the Gem State.

There are many protections in place surrounding any new car you may buy from lemon laws to manufacture warranties. Although, when it comes to used cars, it's buyer beware.

“Those cars are going to end up somewhere. A lot of times and it could be a used car lot,” Dale Dixon with the Better Business Bureau said.

Even a used car lot in the Treasure Valley.

“They do make their way to drier areas, the Pacific Northwest and they do salvage them out,” Kyle Latham, owner of Impact Motorz said.

That’s why it’s important you do your homework before buying any used car.

“Have a mechanic you trust go through the car. Number two, do a vin check so you know the car's history, where it's been, the work that's been done on it; and then check that title carefully to be sure that it is a clean and clear title and that it's not a salvage,” Dixon said.

A clean and clear title means the car hasn’t been totaled, ever.

“Once an insurance company deems a car to be totaled, i.e. the flood damage is so bad that the car cannot be repaired, that's going to create a title history and it will be a salvage title,” Dixon said.

By federal law, a salesperson must inform you if the car’s title is salvaged, flooded, or branded.

“The minute you step foot on any car lot is that number one, is this a clean title? Just straight up a yes or no answer,” Latham said.

A branded title only shows up if the insurance company deems the car a total loss, either through a wreck, theft, fire, or flood.

However, there’s always the possibility the car was wrecked or flooded, never reported to the insurance company and fixed, which wouldn’t affect the title. In this situation, you’re eyes are key.

Latham says you’re going to want to check for any rust under the wheel well and inside the doorway; look for any water stains inside and on interior of the car; check for any electrical damage; finally, check to see if the car was repainted.

It’s important to look for this because you don’t know how long the car will last.

“If you buy a used car in Idaho you really don't have any protections. Once you drive that car off a lot or away from the person selling it, that car is fully your responsibility,” Dixon said.

CARFAX is offering free flood checks in wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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