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Beware of Water-Damaged Used Cars for Sale

VehiclesHundreds, if not thousands, of cars every year are damaged during the tornado and hurricane seasons and the recently water damaged vehicles in Houston will be for sale on the used car market.  Many of these vehicles are patched up and taken to the local car auction where unscrupulous dealers will purchase them, hide their history and sell them in some other market. Frequently, these vehicles have defects that are not immediately noticeable, but become apparent soon after the purchase. Houston vehicle accident lawyers represent those people who were sold a water-damaged vehicle and subsequently became injured or died when the vehicle caused an accident. As Houston car crash attorneys, it is their mission to make sure you get the type of monetary award you deserve if you are the victim of a fraudulent scam involving a flooded-out vehicle.

It is not easy to recognize water damage when you inspect vehicles that are for sale. They are often camouflaged to hide any problems. Electrical systems and on-board computers do not get along well with buckets of wind-driven water. Even if the electronics are dry, problems can still occur down the road. Years after the initial submersion, the car’s airbags may not work when you need them. If this type of problem puts you or a loved one in a hospital, call a Houston auto personal injury lawyer to get the best representation you can find.

In many instances, a water-damaged vehicle is purchased by an insurance company. Then, the vehicle is given a new title, called a salvage title, which will be marked or branded with the word “salvage” or “flood.” However, in some states the salvage designation is coded, and a layman cannot understand what the code means. Junkyards and vehicle rebuilders buy flood-damaged cars at salvage auctions. As long as the title mentions the fact, and the buyer is made aware that the car was involved in a flood, selling the salvaged vehicle is perfectly legal according to CarFax.

CarFax has records of vehicles and sells reports to prospective buyers online. You can easily check the VIN number to see if the car you are considering has been in a wreck, a flood or had the title “washed” to hide its history.

One thing to watch out for is a “lost” title. A lost title could mean the vehicle was in a flood, and the seller is hiding that fact. The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) has lists of other companies that provide data you can use to see a vehicle’s history. The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers a free VIN-check service, but it is not as thorough as CarFax or the NMVTIS.

How to Avoid a Car with Water Damage.

Your best defense against buying a flood-damaged car or truck is to perform a thorough inspection. Here are some tell-tale signs that could indicate a potential problem.

  • Check the carpets for musty odors, mud or other signs that the car was underwater.
  • Have the seat-mounting screws been removed? The seats must be removed to dry the carpet.
  • Examine the headlights and taillights for any sign of a water line. These components are expensive to replace and can cause headaches if the electrical system is compromised.
  • Check in the hard-to-clean spots. Mud and flood-water debris could be trapped under the hood or between truck panels.
  • Check unpainted exposed screws or other metal parts for signs of rust.
  • Inspect the rubber drain plugs to see if they have been removed recently. If the drain plug under the car and on the bottom of the doors was taken out, it could have been to drain floodwater.

Conversely, if you are trying to sell an undamaged car in an area affected by a flood, have a good mechanic inspect it. Then, potential buyers will feel safer buying your vehicle.

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