AAA is warning consumers cars flooded in Texas will later be sold to unsuspecting buyers, and it's very likely some of those cars will wind up here. Estimates put the number of damaged cars in the half million range. Local 15's Andrea Ramey reports on what you need to know so you don't get taken for a ride.
If you're going to buy a used car in the next year, check every nook and cranny for signs of water damage. You need to physically look for red flags like dirt in the trunk, water lines up under the wheel well or a musty smell inside.
Brandon McPherson has worked on cars for 20 years and has come across plenty damaged by flood waters, especially after Katrina. He showed us places to look for signs the car had been flooded.
"This connector right here, if it's been under water you'd see signs of corrosion and moisture," said McPherson as he unplugged a connector under the hood of a car. "Under the seats would be a good place to look because the connectors on the seats are low-lying."
The problem, he says, is that buyers won't realize there's an issue until it's too late.
"So it may crank up now," said Ramey.
"In a month down the road, it may die on you," said McPherson.
AAA says the crooks often purchase the vehicles at auction after the insurance companies have sold them to be scrapped.
"It's actually a pretty big concern. It happens more than what people realize," said Clay Ingram with AAA Alabama.
The National Crime Insurance Bureau says after Katrina, flood cars showed up in 26 states, outside Louisiana.
"Our proximity to Texas where a lot of these cars were damaged," said Ingram. "That's really pretty conducive to people bringing cars in this area, into the southeastern United States to try and sell the damaged vehicles."
The NCIB says often these cars are sold online, but they have turned up on lots. And usually the crooks only want cash and sell a steep discount.
AAA Tips How to Spot a Flood-Damaged Vehicle
Obtain a CARFAX Vehicle History Report This report can potentially reveal if the vehicle has been involved in a flood, major accident, fire, or uncover odometer fraud.
Engage your sense of smell to detect any damp or musty odors inside the vehicle.
Has the carpet or upholstery been replaced or recently shampooed? Pullback the carpet at different areas and look for mud, dirt or signs of water stains.
Inspect the dashboard underside for signs of mud and dirt. This is a particularly hard area to clean.
Look under the vehicle for corrosion. It is uncommon to find corrosion in newer vehicles and those that are owned or sold in southern states.
Open all doors, hood, and trunk to inspect for corrosion, mud and dirt or discoloration on the door frames, hinges and under the weather stripping. Pay special attention to small spaces and crevices that are difficult to clean.
Check all warning lights, window motors, and all electrical components to ensure they are working properly. While a non-working part alone does not mean the vehicle was flooded, it combined with other difficulties is a cause for concern.
Always have the vehicle inspected by a quality repair facility prior to purchasing. AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities are located across the United States. Nearby locations can be found at AAA.com/Repair.
AAA encourages motorists to contact their insurance companies before purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle. If the vehicle was purchased prior to the discovery that it was flood-damaged, owners should contact their insurance company for advice.