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Beware of flood damage when buying a used vehicle

Beware of flood damage when buying a used vehicle

January 24, 2023

Vehicles damaged in recent storms can make their way to Arizona

PHOENIX – Recent storms are giving more reasons to pay close attention to a vehicle’s condition and history, especially in private sales. Cars damaged by floodwaters’ such as those resulting from rainstorms in California and other states can sometimes find their way to Arizona to be sold.

If a vehicle is flood-damaged, the title should say “salvage” or “flood damage.” But, scammers fraudulently remove flood history from vehicle titles.

Flood-damaged vehicles that have been “dressed up” are a common scam after major weather events like what we’ve seen recently.

Potential buyers should remain vigilant when looking at used vehicles, closely inspect the vehicle, don’t sign anything until the vehicle has been checked over bumper to bumper and be prepared to walk away if things don’t smell right – quite literally in some cases.

ADOT recommends buyers follow these guidelines:

  • 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. Scammers 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. If possible, ask an auto mechanic you trust to 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.

Don’t lose your hard-earned money; walk away if you see any of these red flags.

A buyer can use the vehicle identification number (VIN) to obtain the vehicle history through an online service that may charge a fee. This check can uncover a vehicle’s status as “salvage” or “nonrepairable,” as well as maintenance problems, collisions, insurance claims and titles issued in other states.

Visit the MVD website for more information about buying or selling a vehicle.

flood damaged vehicle warnings