OLYMPIA — While many areas of the country are still reeling from the devastation of hurricanes Irma and Harvey, scam artists are now trying to sell flood-damaged vehicles here in Washington state. The Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance estimates as many as 1 million flood-damaged vehicles could be sold to unsuspecting buyers nationwide.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the Washington State Auto Dealers Association urge consumers not to be fooled by the perfect exterior condition of the car and the new car smell. A flood-damaged car may look normal, but almost always will have serious problems including mildew and corroded wires which can result in an electrical failure.
“I am committed to protecting consumers from scams,” Ferguson said. “The more informed people are, the less likely they are to become a victim.”
Before you buy a used car, research the title and VIN number at www.vehiclehistory.gov and/or www.carfax.com/flood.
Carefully inspect the vehicle inside and out using these guidelines:
Test Drive First: Before you buy a used vehicle, you should thoroughly examine the vehicle and go for a test drive to test the vehicle's mechanical operating condition. This means that you should drive the vehicle as you would under every day driving conditions — freeway, in-city, hills etc.
Check the Gauges: You should check the operation of all electrical and comfort amenities (windows, lights and turn signals, defroster, heater and air conditioner), blow the horn, check the brakes by coming to a controlled emergency stop, and listen to the engine accelerate when entering on to the freeway and on hills.
Complete a Visual Inspection: Do a complete visual inspection of the vehicle; look under the vehicle for any signs of frame damage or collision repairs, any flood damage and any missing, loose or ill-fitting body parts; check the engine compartment and trunk for fresh paint that might reveal prior damage or signs of flood damage.
Check it out with Your Mechanic: If the vehicle passes your test, take it for an inspection by a qualified mechanic of your choosing. The mechanic should check the brakes, electrical system, compression, transmission, & every other system on the vehicle, especially any that caught your attention during the test drive. You should also consider an emissions control system inspection and test. Inspections may cost you some money, but if the mechanic discovers a major defect, you have saved yourself a big problem and a lot of money. When an inspection reveals only minor defects, you can use that information to negotiate either a lower purchase price or get the dealer to agree, in writing, to fix the items before purchase.