How Can You Spot a Flood Damaged Vehicle?

Andrew Campbell:  Flood-damaged vehicles are not always each to spot. They often show little signs of physical damage.

There are some telltale signs of a flood-damaged vehicle:

  • Problems with the radio or other electronics in a vehicle;
  • Strong musty smell;
  • Stains on the carpet;
  • Pulling up the backseat and checking for dampness;
  • Power seats not working;
  • Brake or power steering issues;

If you open the trunk and you look at the interior near the latch and you look for mold, that’s another sign.

Another way to check is to have the vehicle put up so you can look underneath the vehicle. From that vantage point, you might find dirt and other debris jammed upon into the interior of the underbelly of the car.

Another way to check for flood-damaged vehicles is to run a vehicle history check to see the title history of the vehicle.

If you see the vehicle being sold through multiple auctions in different states within a short period of time then that could be a sign of problems.

Sending the vehicle through different states allows dealers to wash the title and remove the salvage title status.

Flood-damaged vehicles can be very unsafe to drive. Sometimes airbags won’t deploy if they have been damaged in a flood.

There is a national database that you can use to check for these kinds of things.

The following are free databases to check.

Also a free vehicle history check:

If you run a vehicle history check it is important to search the web for state-based VIN databases.

For example, if you see that your vehicle had previously been titled in Illinois then it would be wise to search the web to see if Illinois has a free database for vehicle history reports.

Interviewer: What models are frequently stolen and end up in a used car dealer scam?

Andrew Campbell: I see Impalas a lot.  I think because those are commonly used among police, rentals and taxi companies.

But again, you really want to look at a reliable vehicle history report, and take a mechanic with you.

Take a Trusted Mechanic with You When Considering the Purchase of a Used Car

Never buy a certified used car, because the price is not worth it.  What you should do, if you’re going to go buy a used car, is hire a licensed mechanic. Pay a mechanic to come with you and take a test drive.

Have him look at the engine.  Show him any vehicle history reports or any other documentation.

Really, that’s really the only way you know, for sure, if there are issues.

Interviewer: Any other problems that happen with people buying cars?

To Protect Yourself When Purchasing a Used Car, Do Not Permit the Dealer to Access Your Credit Report Until You Are Committed to the Purchase

Andrew Campbell:  Don’t let auto dealers pull your credit report unless you’re really willing to buy the vehicle.

Be careful with any authorizations or documents that you sign.

Once you like a car, then you can allow them to pull your credit report.  If you are denied credit you should get notices in the mail, and you’re going to want to keep all those notices because they are supposed to comply with federal law.

There’s something called the ECOA, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.  That is a law designed to make the extension of credit fair to everyone. If at any time you were denied credit, it could have been based upon marital status,

If at any time you were denied credit, it could have been based upon marital status, sex and race, because a lot of minorities were being picked on.  They were discriminated against.

Everyone who gets denied credit gets a notice from the bank or the financial institution, and that notice will tell them that they were denied credit, and that way they know their credit report was pulled, and then they can investigate that and they get their credit score.

Shady dealers will run your credit through several different third-party lenders. When your credit is run an inquiry appears on your credit report.

A number of inquiries within a short period of time can reduce your credit score. So be careful when dealing with any used car dealer. Make sure you have the credit score needed to get credit prior to allowing a dealer to run your credit.