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Texas Department of Insurance
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Beware of buying flood-damaged vehicles

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Once an engine gets waterlogged, it’s almost impossible to ever make it right. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous sellers will buy these salvage cars at auction and resell them to unsuspecting buyers across the state and nation. Here’s what to do if that used car deal looks too good to be true.

  1. Look for signs of water damage

    Stains, mildew, rust, and discoloration are signs of water damage. Look for dirt or debris under the floor mats, carpet, or where the spare tire is located. Mold or mildew will give off a musty odor; if you notice a strong smell of cleaner or disinfectant, it could be an attempt to cover up those odors.

  2. Check the title

    When a vehicle is declared a total loss, the title must be changed to a salvage or non-repairable title. You can ask to see the title, and a vehicle history report will list the status of the title.

  3. Check the VIN

    The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers a free service on its website called VINCheck. Enter the vehicle identification number, and NICB’s database will show if that vehicle has been stolen or listed as a total loss.

  4. Have a mechanic look it over

    Flood damage isn’t always obvious. Try to have a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle and buy from a reputable dealer.

  5. Check used boats and RVs

    Be aware that boats, RVs, and campers damaged by floodwaters also may appear on the resell market. It’s a good idea to follow these same tips when buying any used vehicle or boat.

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Last updated: 12/6/2021