With the recent heavy rains/flooding from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee stretching from Louisiana all the way to northern new England and Southern Canada (and, yes, they affected my own D.C. area, too), a lot of both new and used-cars are sitting on lots with flood-damage....sometimes at unscrupulous dealerships and buisnesses. Car Fax reoports may (?) uncover some prior flooding, but may not be up-to-date enough to catch the latest batch of damaged vehicles. So, while it is difficult to at times to catch some damage on visual inspection, be sure to check out any car you are interested in as thoroughly as possible....and if in doubt, have a technician, insurance-rep, or someone else experienced in spotting water-damage also have a look.
Accuweather, which does not normally get into the car-buying buisness, has a good article on this:
In the wake of massive flooding from Hurricane Irene, consumers may be hit with an unsuspected trick. Several flood-damaged automobiles will be sold without accurate damage reports.
This is not a new practice, as flood-damaged vehicles are sold every year in various parts of the U.S., according to New Jersey Business.
"We've had quite a bit of rain and flooding, so it will be worse than usual this year," said Senior Consumer Advice Editor for automotive research site Edmunds.com, Philip Reed. "It's a danger for car buyers."
One key danger is "title washing." Essentially, "title washing" is a practice involving moving a vehicle to different states and changing ownership multiple times in an attempt to destroy any record of damage.
Consumers are urged to be on the lookout for deals that seem "too good to be true," as they probably are.
In the 2005 hurricane season, roughly 600,000 automobiles were damaged. Nearly half of them ended up back on the market as used cars, according to Carfax.
"Basically, you don't want this car," said Reed. "It might be working properly now, but the problems could show up later."
"On older cars (especially) we could see engine damage," said AccuWeather.com Expert Meteorologist Frank Strait. "Even just plain water getting into the engine can cause premature wear and tear. For example, the cylinder walls could start to rust."
Many of these problems cannot be identified by a simple check under the hood.
"Saltwater can be especially dangerous," said Bob Smerbeck, AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist. "Silt particles can cause plenty of damage and eat away at your engine block. Essentially, (the car) will age quicker."
Damage may not show up immediately. Vehicles could show little to no damage at all from the flooding, but problems may arise down the road.
"You may not notice it at first, and everything seems fine, but damage has been done," added Strait.
Consumers are warned to be on the lookout for signs of flood damage such as discolored carpeting, rust in the undercarriage, dirt in unusual places, musty odors and fogged-up headlamps, according to New Jersey Business. Also, Strait adds, "Get yourself a Carfax report. It's definitely worth the fee."