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Don’t Drown in a Deal on a Flood Car

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Paging through the internet, you could get a salvage 2013 Jaguar for $10,950 or a 2015 Toyota RAV 4 for just $7,950. You might be able to fix it, resell it and make a bundle – or sell to an unsuspecting buyer.

“Submerge your dreams,” says Dani Liblang, founder of The Liblang Law Firm.P.C. in Birmingham, “ The thought of a late model, low priced car is enticing, but even the muffler or leather seats from a car submerged in the 10-inch waters falling on West Virginia in June could be damaged beyond repair.

After each flood the unscrupulous seek to acquire cars. Huffington Post estimates over a million fraudulent used cars are on the market today with “washed” titles, which means an individual or car lot owner intentionally hides a car’s history by leaving information off the table or deliberately erasing the car’s history.

When a car sits a day or two in 10-inch water it slowly corrodes the engine and electrical components. It leaves mold and mildew in the insulation between interior and exterior car body that could circulate every time you put on the heater or air conditioner. The door jambs could malfunction and the instrument panel could fail its commands.

Before you purchase a used vehicle, take a careful look. The Federal Trade Commission suggests inspecting for musty odor, especially if you smell a strong air freshener. Note if part of the carpet is new, stained, damp or mismatched. You might find mud or silt in the glove compartment and brittle wires that break when touched. Turn on the ignition to check the instrument panel lights are working and the commands are followed. Check all the systems twice to make sure they work.

Ask a trusted mechanic to look over the vehicle, because even more evidence of a flood car could be seen in rusting wheels or damaged undercarriage. You can use your Vehicle Identification Number to get a CARFAX flood damage check. The Department of Justice also helps consumers identify cars in floods or severe accidents. Check www.vehiclehistory.com.

“Re-badging” or “title washing” is a federal crime, according to the Department of Justice and should be reported immediately. The Federal Trade Commission’s Used Car Rule requires dealers who sell six or more vehicles to post a Buyer’s Guide form in every used car on the lot. This guide lists many of the possible defects that could occur in a used vehicle.