In the market for a car? Watch for flood damage

Published on Saturday, 16 September 2017 10:02 - Written by MECHELE AGBAYANI MILLS, Better Business Bureau

Hurricane Harvey brought record flooding to Southeast Texas, leaving between 15 to 51 inches of rainfall in its path. When the water subsides after a flood, cleanup and repair begins on homes, businesses and vehicles. The Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas offers tips for avoiding the purchase of flooded cars.

“Historically, about 50 percent of all the vehicles damaged do make their way back onto the market in some form or another,” Chris Basso, with Carfax.com, said in a recent interview with National Public Radio. “There’s also 325,000 vehicles that are on the road right now from storms that have happened in years past that people are driving every day.”

“They’re going to try to salvage any value that they can out of them since they’re not getting any money from the insurance company,” Basso said. “So those cars are going to be cleaned up quickly, dried out and resold to people within potentially a few days or within a couple weeks of the floodwaters receding.”

Carfax.com lists the tell-tale signs of flooding:

- A musty odor in the interior, which can sometimes be covered with a strong air freshener.

- Upholstery or carpeting that doesn’t match, is loose, new or stained.

- Damp carpets.

- Rust around doors, inside the hood and trunk latches, pedals or under the dashboard.

- Fog or moisture beads in the interior or exterior lights or instrument panel.

The BBB and Carfax.com offer tips to keep in mind when purchasing a vehicle following a storm:

- Research the vehicle. You can find out if a used vehicle has been damaged by water or in a flood by viewing the title history report from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

- Turn on the ignition and check all instrument panel lights.

- Test interior and exterior lights, air conditioning, windshield wipers, radio, heater and turn signals more than once.

- Get the car checked thoroughly by a reliable mechanic. Go to bbb.org for business profiles on mechanics in your area.

- Read the vehicle history to check for flood damage or signs of salvage title fraud.

For more tips on avoiding water or flood damaged vehicles or salvage title fraud, see Texas DMV or Carfax.com.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline, 903-581-8373, or report it via the BBB ScamTracker.