How to avoid buying flood vehicles

Tips to avoid flood damaged cars after Harvey

Texas is flooded -- not only with a record amount of rainfall from Harvey, but also with vehicles stranded in water that sometimes goes up to and over their roofs.

It's only a matter of time before some of these flooded cars, trucks and SUV's end up for sale to buyers who aren't aware of their soggy history. 

If and when they are resold in Arizona, the vehicle must have a new title that specifically says "salvage" and the seller must tell the buyer the car is a salvage. But that doesn't always happen.

So, here's what you need to know to spot a flood vehicle.

Howard Fleischmann, who's with NARPRO, says the first thing he says you should do is check the vehicle's VIN number online with a service such as CARFAX. It costs about $40 dollars, but gives you a vehicle history report.

Next, check the title.

“If it's been in a flood or totaled, it would say salvage title right across the top of it,” Fleischmann said.

That's the law here in Arizona.

When it comes to the vehicle itself, make sure all the interior and dashboard lights come on when the vehicle starts. Flood waters very easily damage the electronics.

“Even if it's underwater for a short period of time, it's going to do some electrical damage that may not be visible for the next 30, 60, 90 days,” Fleischmann said.

Smell the vehicle. If it smells like mold or mildew, there's a chance it's been flooded. Look for signs of mold, mud and silt. Fleischmann said to check areas you normally wouldn't expect someone to look, such as the glove box and the frame.

And if you have any questions, take the vehicle to a reputable mechanic for a thorough inspection.  

Last year, 5,000 flood vehicles made their way to Arizona. And with Harvey, there's a chance even more will this year.  

You can also get a free flood check from CARFAX here.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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