It may be early spring, but those in Pennsylvania and across the mid-Atlantic know that the long hurricane season is just around the corner. Heavy rains and flooding can cause tremendous damage to homes and other property, and that damage is not always visible right away. In fact, it is not unusual for vehicles to sustain serious and even dangerous damage during storm season. Sometimes, a consumer may unknowingly purchase a flood-damaged vehicle.
Even if Pennsylvania does not face flooding this year, it may shock you to know how high the chances are that you will encounter a flood-damaged vehicle if you are looking to make a purchase. The sad fact is that vehicles totaled by flooding frequently find their way back onto car lots, and consumers often pay the dangerous price.
Damaged cars remain in circulation
When flooding damages a vehicle, the insurance company will typically consider it a total loss. This is because the water may infiltrate the electrical systems, but it can also lead to long-term damage that may not be immediately evident. For example, rust and corrosion may slowly eat away at the metal and mechanical components of the vehicle, which may lead to dangerous conditions for a driver.
You may think that the law would prevent such vehicles from returning to the road. Unfortunately, flood-damaged cars often travel across state lines to auctions where used car dealers can buy them very cheap. Many states require totaled vehicles to acquire titles that identify them as salvaged, but not every state is so rigid about this. If the vehicle you purchase passed through one of those lax states, its title may carry no indication of its damage. However, there is a good chance your dealer knows something is very wrong.
Signs of flood damage
You might notice a musty smell in the vehicle because of the water in the carpet and upholstery, or the dealer may have replaced all the carpeting. If you look at the headlights, you may see a waterline. Mud and other debris may still be hiding in gaps and between panels, such as in the trunk or under the hood. Any signs of rust, such as under the dashboard, should prompt you to walk away.
Unfortunately, some evidence of flood damage may escape your notice unless you have training to recognize it. If you end up purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle, your safety is at risk. You may wish to speak with an attorney to learn about your options for holding the dealer responsible for the fraudulent transaction that left you with a defective vehicle.