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How Can I Avoid Buying a Flood-Damaged Vehicle?

Dan Brian   |  September 29, 2017   |  

Does your vehicle contain defects?Millions of vehicles across the US have been damaged by flood waters caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey. After extensive flooding or extreme weather, it is not uncommon for damaged vehicles to be sold on new or used car lots. Individuals or businesses may use a variety of tricks to hide the damage. You and many others could be at risk of purchasing an unsafe or broken vehicle.

In North Carolina, flood damage must be reported on a vehicle’s title. However, titles can be manipulated or altered to remove this important information. The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office has released some tips that can help you identify damaged vehicles before you make a purchase.

  • Directly ask the seller if the vehicle has a history of weather damage.
  • Use vehiclehistory.gov to pull a vehicle’s history report. This website has a list of approved providers who can pull vehicle history information.
  • Pull the vehicle’s title and see whether it recently came from a state that experienced flooding. If the vehicle was deemed a total loss by the vehicle’ owner’s insurance company, then the title would specify whether there was flood damage.
  • Do you have a friend or family member who is also a mechanic? You could have them inspect the vehicle for flood damage.
  • Be wary about buying a vehicle over the internet, especially if you have never seen the vehicle.
  • Carefully inspect the vehicle for rust, mold or mud. Check the air conditioner and heater for signs of mud or mold.
  • Electronics in vehicles can malfunction if they are exposed to large amounts of water. You can check the vehicle’s headlights, turn signals, vehicle dashboard, radio, power outlet and windshield wipers for water damage.

The North Carolina Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division operates a fraud hotline for victims of scams. You can call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM for assistance. In addition, you can also file consumer complaints at ncdoj.gov.

Natural disasters attract scammers. Dishonest people prey on desperation. Please remain diligent for mortgage, vehicle and financial scams during this time. At Riddle & Brantley, LLP, Justice Counts.