Car buyers beware, state officials say

A month after Tropical Storm Imelda, flood-damaged vehicles may be hitting the resale market. (KXLN photo)
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) A month after Tropical Storm Imelda, flood-damaged vehicles may be hitting the resale market, the Texas Department of Insurance warned Wednesday.

“Dishonest sellers will buy salvage cars at auction and resell them to unsuspecting buyers,” the department said in a press release Wednesday.

“Once an engine gets waterlogged, it’s almost impossible to ever make it right.”

“If you’re shopping for a used car, make sure to look for signs of water damage,” said Insurance Commissioner Kent Sullivan.

“There’s often a reason when the deal looks too good to be true.”

Buyer tips

Look for signs of water damage
Stains, mildew, rust, and discoloration are signs of water damage. Look for dirt or debris under the floor mats, carpet, or where the spare tire is located. Mold or mildew will give off a musty odor; if you notice a strong smell of cleaner or disinfectant, it could be an attempt to cover up those odors.

Check the title
When a vehicle is declared a total loss, the title must be changed to a salvage or non-repairable title. You can ask to see the title, and a vehicle history report will list the status of the title.

Check the VIN
The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers a free service on its website called VINCheck. Enter the vehicle identification number, and NICB’s database will show if that vehicle has been stolen or listed as a total loss.

Have a mechanic look it over
Flood damage isn’t always obvious. Try to have a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle and buy from a reputable dealer.

Check used boats and RVs, too
Be aware that boats, RVs, and campers damaged by floodwaters also may appear on the resell market. It’s a good idea to follow these same tips when buying any used vehicle or boat.

(Source: Texas Dept. of Insurance)