INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) – Attorney General Todd Rokita is warning Hoosier consumers to watch out for flood-damaged vehicles when shopping for used cars.
As communities are recovering from the widespread flooding from Hurricane Ida, car buyers around the country need to be aware of the increased likelihood that flood-damaged vehicles will be put up for sale.
“We take action every day against individuals who have victimized Hoosiers by engaging in deceptive and unfair business practices,” Attorney General Rokita said. “But we also stress education and outreach to help Hoosiers avoid becoming victims in the first place.”
Rokita said that before Hurricane Ida there was almost half a million flood-damaged vehicles on U.S. roads. Now, that number is likely to increase significantly.
Even after a flood-damaged vehicle’s most obvious damages are repaired, the vehicle can suffer long-lasting effects. This includes: shortening out a vehicle’s electrical system, compromised safety features such as airbags and anti-lock brakes as well as mold and mildew infestation.
If a vehicle is flood damaged, its title should be branded as “salvage” or “flood damage,” and such a title brand must be disclosed in writing to a purchasing consumer, Rokita said. However, some flood-damaged vehicles lack the title brand due to fraudulent activity. These unbranded vehicles will be moved to states throughout the country to be sold to unsuspecting consumers.
To reduce the risk of unknowingly purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle, consumers should follow these steps prior to making a transaction:
- Ask the dealer to provide a vehicle history report. If the dealer refuses to provide such a report, purchase one yourself. Consumers can obtain a vehicle history report from a variety of sources, such as Carfax, Autocheck, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, or the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
- Check the vehicle’s history report to see if there are any reported title brands on the vehicle, such as “salvage,” “rebuilt,” “junk” or “flood damage.” Also note on the report the state or geographic area where the vehicle was last titled or registered to determine if the vehicle was recently located in an area affected by flooding.
- Ask to see the vehicle’s title, or a copy of the title, and check to see if the title includes any title brands, including “salvage,” “rebuilt,” “junk” or “flood damage.”
- Inspect the vehicle closely for any signs of flood damage by checking to ensure all electronic components, including the heat and air conditioning, are operational. Check for any signs of mud or rust anywhere on or in the vehicle, including the engine compartment. Check for discolored or mildewed carpeting. Note whether the vehicle has any odd smells. Be suspicious of a vehicle that smells like mildew. The aroma of heavy disinfectants and cleaners may also be an indicator that someone has tried to mask a mold or odor problem.
- Take the vehicle for a test drive.
- Have an independent mechanic of your choosing inspect the vehicle prior to purchase. Specifically ask the mechanic to check for any signs of flood damage.
If a consumer suspects a recently purchased vehicle was flood-damaged, and such damage was not disclosed prior to sale, the consumer should file a consumer complaint at www.in.gov/attorneygeneral.