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Hiding flood damage in vehicles can constitute fraud

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2024 | Dealer Fraud

People in the market for a used vehicle may turn to a dealership to find one. They will then likely expect that the salespeople will be forthcoming about the condition of any particular vehicle.

Flood damage is one issue that might not seem like a huge deal; however, it can lead to significant problems with a vehicle later. Because of this, car dealerships are required to disclose known flood damage.

Pay attention to unusual odors

A musty or moldy smell inside the car is one of the most telling signs of flood damage. Sellers might try to mask these odors with strong air fresheners or a heavy application of cleaning products. If the interior smells overly perfumed or if you notice a damp, musty scent, it’s worth investigating further.

Check for rust and corrosion

Flood water causes rust and corrosion on metal surfaces. Inspect under the car, looking at the exhaust system, brake lines and other undercarriage parts for rust that seems unusual for the car’s age and geographical location. Inside the car, check for corrosion around screws, seat mounts and hinges.

Examine the upholstery and carpeting

Look closely at the vehicle’s upholstery and carpeting for water stains, discoloration, or fading. Sometimes, sellers replace only the carpet to disguise flood damage. If the carpet seems too new for the car or doesn’t fit perfectly, it may have been replaced. Also, feel the carpet for dampness or a crunchy texture, which could indicate the presence of silt or mud.

Inspect electrical systems

Flood damage can wreak havoc on a car’s electrical system. Test all electrical components, including the dashboard lights, audio system, lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, and air conditioning. Malfunctions or erratic behavior in these systems can be red flags for flood damage.

Be wary of recently cleaned cars

While a clean car is usually appealing, be cautious if a vehicle seems excessively cleaned or detailed. Sellers trying to hide flood damage might extensively clean the car’s interior and engine bay to remove mud, silt, and evidence of water. A spotless engine bay in an older vehicle or sediment in hard-to-reach areas can be telltale signs.

If a dealership doesn’t disclose known flooding of a vehicle, it can be considered auto dealership fraud. Victims of this kind of misconduct have specific rights, so working with a legal representative to address fraud-related concerns is generally wise.

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