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How to Spot Flood Car Fraud

Our sympathies are with everyone who was affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but we’re aware that the damage from these storms isn’t quite over yet. Unfortunately, flood-damaged vehicles can find their way back into the market and unsuspecting buyers end up with problems they didn’t anticipate.

This is not a new type of fraud and became very prevalent after Hurricane Katrina. At that time, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) established VINCheck, a free database that car buyers can use to see if the car they want has been in a flood, accident or if it’s been reported stolen. American Family Insurance and many other insurance companies report the VIN of a totaled or flood damaged car to the database to help protect consumers.

While researching on VINCheck should be a first step in protecting yourself from buying a “flood car”, we have some other tips that could help you as well.

Carfax. Getting a Carfax report was a great idea before, it makes even more sense now. Using the VIN to search on Carfax can give you insights into past salvage and repair records.

Search for sand. Do your own check for any water damage, mildew, rust and corrosion, sand or leftover dirt. Make sure to check those out-of-the-way, hard-to-reach spots. Bring a mirror so you can see under the seats and the undercarriage.

Look at the lights. Check the head and taillights, it’s hard to get them dry so foggy light housing may be a sign of previous flooding. The instrument panel and some mirrors can also take on a foggy appearance if they have water damage.

Use a mechanic. Whether you bring the mechanic to the vehicle or bring the vehicle to the mechanic, having a certified mechanic inspect any future vehicle purchases you are contemplating may save you from making a mistake.

Be cautious. Only use a reputable dealership whom you trust. Then, ask them outright if the car you are interested has anything about flooding or salvage on the title. And be wary of any deals that sound too good to be true.

There are a variety of different ways flood cars get back into circulation and, even if you live in a state far away from the recent hurricanes, it pays to be diligent when buying a new or used car.

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Related Topics: Car Buying