In the aftermath of many extreme weather events such as hurricanes or heavy rains and forest fires, in Arizona, we inevitably find a number of “flood cars” or salvaged vehicles entering our pre-owned vehicle market.
Though some states have laws and regulations that mandate these cars be given a flood designation on their titles, many other states do not have any such rules.
This gap in regulation often leads to unscrupulous sellers relocating flood cars from states where the flood designation is required to states where they can sell the vehicle without disclosing its issues with flooding.
Used Cars Should be examined to Determine if Salvaged
Experts say to use caution when buying a vehicle that may have been stuck in flooded waters. Cars that have been flooded in the past are likely to have ongoing mechanical and electrical issues that can potentially cost many buyers thousands of dollars to repair, not to leave out distress and anger.
As such, if you live in a state that doesn’t require a flood disclosure or you live in Arizona which gets a lot of illegal sellers, it is a good idea to know what steps to take to avoid purchasing a formerly flooded vehicle.
The Arizona Department of Transportation is cautioning those in the market for a used car to keep in mind that many vehicles damaged by flooding in those states can easily end up in Arizona and be put up for sale.
ADOT advised that anyone buying a used car through a private sale should especially keep a close eye out for water damage. Buyers should note that if a car does have previous water damage the title would say “salvage” or “flood damage,” according to an ADOT press release.
And even if these rules exist for salvaged vehicles (like they do in Arizona), many of us still get conned when buying used cars. As the ADOT press release goes on to say, “Scammers can easily remove flood history from the title of the vehicle.”
4 Steps to take before Buying a Salvaged used Vehicle in Arizona
1) Vehicle History Report
Thoroughly inspect the vehicle history report before you ever even look at the car in person. If you notice anything strange at all on it, you may want to consider this to be a red flag. In particular, you want to pay attention to things like the odometer readings, title issues, and any salvage history the vehicle may have. Put simply, the more you know about the vehicle, the better.
2) Visually Inspect the Vehicle
One of the best ways to diagnose flooding in a vehicle is to simply look at it. Check for water staining or mold growth in places where most people may not think to clean. This could mean checking out the underside of the dashboard, the spare wheel well, or underneath the floor mats. Of course, any sign of water damage could be due to previous flooding.
3) Smell the Vehicle
Though it may seem a little silly at first, giving the car a quick sniff test can be a great way to uncover potential water or flood damage issues. If the car just smells like old gym socks or the previous owner’s pet dog, everything is probably normal. However, if the vehicle smells moldy, you may want to reconsider purchasing it. Similarly, if the vehicle smells like a doctor’s office, it may be a clue that the seller is trying to cover something up.
4) Ask a Mechanic experienced in used-salvaged vehicles to Inspect It
Though you can do a relatively thorough inspection of the vehicle yourself, there is often something hidden and more to know. It is recommended by ADOT that hire a professional mechanic who has experience in working on and repairing salvaged vehicles to do a complete under the hood diagnostics. They will be able to give you a full report on the status of the vehicle and whether they believe it has even been subject to any flood damage.
As example, at All Brands Auto in Mesa, the mechanics have discovered many vehicles which were incorrectly labeled. And several of the vehicles were able to be fixed easily so cost the customers less in the long-run because they found out in advance the costs to repair the care before giving the seller the asking amount.
Since buying a new vehicle is one of the biggest financial moves that most people will ever make, it is always a good idea to be 100 percent confident in your decision. Or you believe that there is any chance your prospective new vehicle has been subject to flooding in the past, it is probably a good idea to simply walk away and keep searching.