In the wake of flooding in Louisiana, AAA is warning motorists looking to purchase a used car to beware of flood-damaged vehicles for sale. “We’ve seen this happen before,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “Water-damaged vehicles are moved quickly out of the flood zone, cleaned up and put into the used car market stream through private dealers, on resale sites like Craigslist and via auction houses.”
AAA has some advice for would-be used car buyers:
- Deal with reputable dealers.
- Give the vehicle the sniff test: check for any musty or damp odors inside the vehicle.
- New carpeting in a used car is a dead giveaway. Pull back carpeting and look for signs of mud, dirt and water stains.
- Crawl down and look up under the dashboard to see if you can find any dirt or mud.
- Have a qualified auto technician put the vehicle up on a lift to check for corrosion or other telltale signs of water damage under the car. To find a good tech, check the list of AAA Approved Auto Repair shops at AAA.com/AAR.
- Make sure all electronic components, windows and lights work.
- Open the hood, trunk and doors and look for signs of corrosion, dirt or discoloration on the doorframes, hinges and under the weather stripping. It’s difficult to clean all these surfaces and crevices .
- Request a Carfax report on the vehicle. It may not indicate the car has been in a flood but it will indicate where the vehicle came from which, combined with other factors, can be a red flag.
“Water that invades vehicles is damaging enough,” said Mai. “But dirty flood water contains all kinds of chemicals and can be highly corrosive. Plus, remember that in Oklahoma, once you buy a used car, it’s yours. There’s no Lemon Law on used vehicles.”