With massive flooding from tremendous storms comes a torrent of flood-damaged cars on used car lots. If you are in the market for a car and plan on buying one that is used, be sure the vehicle you purchase isn’t a waterlogged car. Detailing a car and making it look pretty can fool a lot of folks into thinking they are getting a bargain when they are actually being duped. If you know what to look for, you can avoid getting stuck with a lemon.

Waterlogged Car Epidemic

Thousands of cars were affected by flood waters. While insurance companies took care of most of the car owners, some of those vehicles damaged by water have not made it to the junkyard. Many damaged vehicles may look fine until you do a very close inspection.  While the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) works to protect citizens against purchasing flood-damaged vehicles, not all states take that precaution. This means there is a possibility Florida residents could unknowingly purchase a waterlogged car from another state.

Branding Practices

When a vehicle has been damaged by flood waters, the owner reports it to the insurance company. The insurance company then makes a report to the DHSMV, which provides an indication of the vehicle’s title which brands it as junk, salvage or flood. This can apply to the vehicle’s current or past condition. There is a requirement set forth by Florida Statute Section 319.14(1)(b) that all vehicles that have sustained damage from flooding must have an obvious indication of the damage on the title of the vehicle. This branding protects consumers from purchasing Florida titled waterlogged cars. It doesn’t help with cars that come from states that do not take such precautions.

The DHSMV provides a Motor Vehicle Information Check for those consumers who want to learn whether or not a car titled in Florida is branded. If you have the vehicle’s identification number (VIN) or title number, you can look it up in the database. Further, dealers are required to let you know whether or not a vehicle has a brand.

Signs of Water Damage

When you are buying a used car from a private party, it can be a little more difficult to find out if there is a brand on it. There are signs to look for, however; if you see rust or corrosion on the underside of the vehicle that doesn’t seem right, it could indicate flood damage. Check the trunk and look under the lining. Rust or a mildew smell indicates a problem. If there is a waterline or signs of mud in the trunk or glovebox you can be pretty certain the vehicle is a waterlogged car. Sometimes, an air freshener is used to mask the odor of mold and mildew so check the carpeting and upholstery for signs of water damage.

Don’t be fooled by smooth talkers and a car that looks nice on the outside. Always take your time when purchasing a car, particularly after a period of heavy flooding such as that experienced this summer. Ask questions and get the information you need to make a wise decision.

Make a wise decision when it comes to seeking legal help too. Frohlich, Gordon & Beason, P.A., are your attorneys who care. Specializing in personal injury law and business litigation, we serve the North Port, Englewood, Port Charlotte, and Southwest Florida areas. Contact us for excellence in helping you with your personal injury case.