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June 01, 2018 @ 12:00am

Avoid purchasing a car with water damage, Here is how.With graduation season in full swing, millions of parents are going to be looking to purchase a car for their grad, or to help them get a car on their own. Unfortunately, this time of year—storm season, with major floods and weather events across the country—can lead to something we call “wet titles,” or cars that have been damaged in floods. Sometimes, the damage caused by flooding isn’t even revealed by the seller. Here are a few things to look out for to keep your loved one from getting scammed.

First and foremost, always check if the vehicle has a vehicle history report. Here, you’ll see if the car was declared a “salvage title,” which is a complete loss according to the insurance company, or if it’s a “flood title,” which means it was submerged up to its engine compartment. In general, avoid these vehicles, even if they feel like a great value.

Flood damage shows up in a number of ways. Not only can high water destroy electrical systems and start the process of rusting your engine from the inside out, they can also damage your car’s interior and everything from the stereo to the air conditioning. And the worst part is this damage doesn’t always show up right away; it can take years before the vehicle starts to fail.

So how can you tell if a car is flood damaged? First, be especially weary in the aftermath of major storms as scammers will get flood-damaged cars to market as quickly as possible. Next, look under the car’s rugs and upholstery for signs of rust, and see if you smell dampness or mildew: A rug can be shampooed but it takes far more effort to buff out the rust left by floods. Then, take a look under the hood. Mud and flood debris tend to collect in those hard to reach places down in the engine. Finally, look at the exposed heads of any screws on the vehicles interior. If there’s rust, there’s a good chance the car has been exposed to excess moisture.

If you suspect the car was flood damaged, the best thing is to walk away. The seller likely knows the vehicle’s history and will be happy to bargain in order to move the vehicle quickly. In general, try to buy from reputable dealers, those who offer vehicle history reports and are likely to acquire their vehicles locally. Finally, follow your gut: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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