7 ON YOUR SIDE's tips on how to spot a flood-damaged vehicle

7 ON YOUR SIDE's tips on how to spot a flood-damaged vehicle (ABC7)

Whenever there are big floods like the one that happened in Historic Ellicott City, Md., over the weekend, it poses an opportunity for scam artists to make a buck off of the public’s ignorance.

Many of the cars being carried off in floodwaters could eventually end up on the market to be sold to unsuspecting buyers.

7 ON YOUR SIDE Troubleshooter Horace Holmes tells us how to protect yourself and spot a flood-damaged vehicle.

“One thing is to look for signs of water around the tailpipe. This is one of the closest components to the ground and the water can be less than a foot and it can go through your exhaust system and then go into your engine and cause irreparable damage,” said Jon Townsend of AAA Mid-Atlantic.

How do flood-damaged vehicles end up on the market?

Typically, owners of flood-damaged vehicles would first file a claim with his or her insurance company. The insurance company would most likely classify the car as totaled and then sell it along with the vehicle’s title, which would be marked by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles as flood-damaged and sent to a salvage lot.

“You have to watch out for washed titles, meaning they have purged the markings on the title of any sign the DMV has declared it a flooded vehicle,” Townsend said.

The vehicle could then be sold illegally with no apparent markings to an auction company, a used car lot or shipped to any place in the country.

Here are a few more tips on what to look out for to protect yourself before buying that possibly flood-damaged used car:

  • Check the carpets and mats for moisture and water damage
  • Take a close look at the headlights, taillights and floodlights for condensation
  • Smell the car for a damp, mildew-like scent
  • Look around the body of the car for water marks, stains, mud residue or rust in the nooks and crannies of that car
  • Get a vehicle history report
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