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Spotting Cars with Flood Damage

30 April, 2011

AAA offers tips on how to determine if a car has water damage that could be especially helpful for car buyers with credit problems

Our experience

With credit challenged consumers being especially susceptible to buying vehicles with hidden damage, it can be important to know how to spot these types of cars.

At Auto Credit Express we havee across people this has happened to – only because we’ve spent the past two decades helping car shoppers with credit issues find dealers that can arrange for auto loan approvals.

Title washing

While auto lenders that work with bad credit buyers won’t finance vehicles with branded titles (including those with water damage), that doesn’t mean it never happens.

When it does occur it’s usually the result of salvage operators buying flood-damaged vehicles, cleaning them up, and then re-titling them in another state in a practice known as “title washing.”


In a recent article, AAA noted that cars with flood damage often appear up to a year after a major flood and can be shipped and sold as new or used cars anywhere in the U.S.

“Depending on the vehicle make, model and age, the cost of a thorough cleaning and drying may exceed the car’s value,” said John Nielsen, director, AAA Auto Repair.  “In many cases, insurancepanies ‘total’ flood-damaged vehicles that are then sold to salvagepanies.”

“However, rather than being disassembled for parts, some of these vehicles end up being purchased by individuals who bring varying levels of expertise to the restoration process,” continued Nielsen.

Because many areas in a vehicle are difficult to get to (such as door locks, wiring harnesses and heating and air conditioningponents) they are not easily cleaned. Also, while these systems might initially perform properly they could –due to corrosion and oxidation – fail at a later date.

Here are some tips from AAA on how to spot flood damage:

•    Obtain a CARFAX Vehicle History Report – One of these can potentially reveal if the vehicle has been involved in a flood, major accident, fire, or uncover odometer fraud.
•    Engage your sense of smell to detect any damp or musty odors inside the vehicle.
•    Has the carpet or upholstery been replaced or recently shampooed?  Pullback the carpet at different areas and look for mud, dirt or signs of water stains.
•    Inspect the dashboard underside for signs of mud and dirt.  This is a particularly hard area to clean.
•    Look under the vehicle for corrosion.  It is umon to find corrosion in newer vehicles and those that are owned or sold in southern states.  
•    Open all doors, hood, and trunk to inspect for corrosion, mud and dirt or discoloration on the door frames, hinges and under the weather stripping. Pay special attention to small spaces and crevices that are difficult to clean.  
•    Check all warning lights, window motors, and all electricalponents to ensure they are working properly.  While a non-working part alone does not mean the vehicle was flooded, itbined with other difficulties is a cause for concern.  
•    Always have the vehicle inspected by a quality repair facility prior to purchasing.  AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities are located across the United States.  Nearby locations can be found at AAA/Repair.  

The Bottom Line

When looking at a used car always check for possible water damage. New cars are usually covered by your state’s lemon laws while used cars rarely are. Once you buy a used car, it’s yours. Also remember that if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

One more thing: if your credit is less than perfect, Auto Credit Express can help you find a dealer for your best chance at an auto loan approval.

If you’re ready to start the process, you can begin now by filling out our online car loans application.

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by Admin

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