Saturday, April 1, 2023


Beware of flood damage when buying a used vehicle

When buying a used vehicle, take the recent weather into consideration.

Heavy storms are all the more reason 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 other states, commonly 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 (literally and figuratively).

Arizona Department of Transportation 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 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 (Arizona Motor Vehicle Division) website for more information about buying or selling a vehicle.



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Gary W Mayberry
1 month ago

Back in the late ’70’s we had a river flood in west/central Pennsylvania. I purchased a pickup truck that had been a flood vehicle from a salvage yard. It was clearly titled “flood” branded. Back then there wasn’t the computer controlled electronics and such as todays vehicles. It had been completely under water as the sunvisors were all warped. Thoroughly cleaned inside and all fluids changed and gas tanks drained. With no problems with the exception of replacing the starter, it turned out to be a very nice sharp truck with no problems as long as I owned it. Todays vehicles are an entire different story with the electronics controlling everything. I’d stay away!

2 months ago

All along the Gulf coast we have lots of flood damaged cars and trucks parked under overpasses, awaiting recovery after a hurricane. It’s a big source for this sort of activity. One has to really watch out after a hurricane.

2 months ago

Beware of any vehicle that has been recently titled in Montana. Many folks laundering a title will use Montana based ‘dealers’ who will certify that the vehicle is not damaged and have a clean title issued.

Dale Rose
2 months ago

In 2020, northeastern Michigan had some severe flooding, when a couple of dams broke. In 2022, I looked at a couple of travel trailers that were for sale at kind of low prices, and they had “rebuilt” titles. I looked underneath 2 trailers and they had mud underneath them. I walked away.

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