Does that used car pass the smell test?

"Does the vehicle pass the smell test?" Infographic

"Does the vehicle pass the smell test?" Infographic

By Ryan Harding / ADOT Communications

Many vehicles wound up submerged in floodwaters from hurricanes that struck Texas and Florida. Unfortunately, some of those vehicles will find their way to other states, including Arizona, where sellers will fraudulently present them to would-be buyers as anything but flood-damaged. As we shared this week, the title for such a vehicle should say it's been in a flood, but scammers can and do find ways around that.

Doing research on used vehicles can save you major headaches. Following your nose can help lead you away from buying a car that spent time underwater.

First, check out all of the vehicle’s nooks and crannies. Look inside under the carpet and floor mats and examine the trunk for dirt, silt and mold. Check under the dashboard and other hard-to-reach places as well. Criminals usually don’t clean all of those places. Finally, take a good whiff in those areas. Water damage leaves a distinctive smell.

Check the electrical and mechanical components. Water wreaks havoc on electrical systems, so check to see if any of those systems aren’t working quite right. Also check the engine for signs of rust or even random new parts. Get under the vehicle and check the suspension for water damage. Any of those things could be a sign that you’re in danger of buying a flood-damaged vehicle.

When it comes to buying any used vehicle in a private sale, it’s important to take the time and ask lots of questions. There are no dumb questions in a big purchase like this. If the seller is acting suspiciously, being evasive or uncooperative, walk away. Take the time to find the right purchase.

Here are some additional tools to help you in purchasing that used vehicle:

ADOT also has a handy car-buying checklist you may use as a guide when you find that perfect new-to-you vehicle.