Water Damage and Bad Creditby Steve Cypher on Sunday, August 5th, 2012
Car shoppers, especially those with credit problems, should be on the lookout for cars that have been flood damaged.
At Auto Credit Express we’re familiar with this because, for the last two decades, we’ve been helping applicants with car credit issues find dealers that can arrange financing for them. But the fact is that even though subprime auto lenders won’t finance vehicles that have a branded title (including water damage), that doesn’t mean it never happens.
Flood damaged vehicles that have their titles washed (no pun intended) usually begin a second life after being purchased salvage operators. These scammers clean them up and re-title them in another state resulting in a clean title – thus the term “title washing.”
According to an article published by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), “Unscrupulous salvage operators and dealers often try to conceal the fact that the vehicles they are selling have been damaged by a natural disaster,” said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. “It is not illegal to sell or buy a flood-damaged car, however, it is against the law to sell a water-damaged car without letting the buyer know that the car had been damaged by a flood.”
The story went on to state that “To avoid inadvertently purchasing a flood-damaged car, it is important that you only buy a used car from a reputable dealer, have a certified mechanic look for flood damage and check the car’s VIN number by using a credible industry database.”
Buyers, according to the I.I.I., should be on the lookout for the following indicators that a car may have been flooded:
• Mildew, debris and silt in places where it wouldn’t normally be found, such as under the carpeting in the trunk, or around the engine compartment
• Rust on screws and other metal parts
• Water stains or faded upholstery; discoloration of seatbelts and door panels
• Dampness in the floor and carpeting; moisture on the inside of the instrument panel
• A moldy odor or an intense smell of Lysol or deodorizer; this is a tactic frequently used by dealers to cover up an odor problem
If you suspect that a car dealer is attempting to commit fraud by knowingly selling flooded cars as regular used cars, contact your insurance company, local law enforcement agency or the NICB at 800-TEL-NICB.
That “credible industry database” mentioned earlier is another buyer resource. To check the history of a specific car and whether it has been declared a salvage vehicle by a participating member insurance company, the NICB created VINCheck. This website provides consumers with a free VIN number search tool and can be accessed from the NICB home page listed here: (https://www.nicb.org/theft_and_fraud_awareness/vincheck).
The Bottom Line
Take care when picking out a used car and remember that if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
You should also know that Auto Credit Express specializes in matching applicants with auto credit issues to dealers that can offer them their best chance at getting approved for car loans.
So if you’re ready to begin the process, you can start now by filling out our online car loans application.