SEATTLE – As waters recede and lives are put back together following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, car buyers are urged to take precautions when buying a used vehicle in the coming months. Although the East Coast is far from the Pacific Northwest, flood-damaged vehicles from Hurricane Sandy that should go to the junkyard will likely end up on local car lots to be sold by unaware car dealers to unsuspecting buyers.
Vehicles sold with pre-existing damage are not covered under a standard Auto Insurance policy. If you buy a used vehicle and later discover that it was damaged from being submerged in flood waters, your Auto Insurance will not cover the cost of needed repairs.
“A ‘flood vehicle’ is defined as a vehicle that has been completely or partially submerged in water to the extent that its mechanical components and electronic subsystems have been damaged or destroyed,” said Frank Scafidi, Director, Public Affairs, National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). “Unscrupulous people buy the vehicles, clean them up to hide the flood damage then ship them to states unaffected by flooding to be sold as normal used cars.”
The scam artists also do not disclose the damage on the title document, which is a crime called “title washing.”
“You have to invest some time to find a reliable used car,” said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. “Checking VIN numbers is a great start, but, whenever there is wide-spread flooding, you have to take extra precautions to avoid getting stuck with a car that falls apart around you.”
If you are planning to buy a used vehicle, it’s important to know how to look for flood damage. NW Insurance Council, NICB and the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) offer the following suggestions on how to spot a flood car:
· Choose a reputable car dealer. Check with the Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to find several in your area.
· Look for mildew, debris and silt in places where it wouldn't normally be found, such as under the carpeting in the trunk, or around the engine compartment.
· Check for rust on screws and other metal parts.
· Look for water stains or faded upholstery as well as discoloration of seat belts and door panels.
· Inspect the vehicle for dampness in the floor and carpeting and moisture on the inside of the instrument panel.
· Check for a moldy odor or an intense smell of Lysol or deodorizer being used to cover up an odor problem.
For more information about how to spot a flood car, visit the NICB website for more tips. Also, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System offers an online tool for consumers to access important vehicle history information.
For more information about insurance, contact NW Insurance Council at (800) 664-4942 or visit www.nwinsurance.org.
NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education organization funded by member insurance companies serving Washington, Oregon and Idaho
National Insurance Crime Bureau is the nation’s leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through data analytics, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness.