The Financial and Consumer Services Commission is reminding people looking to buy a car if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
With 650,000 vehicles flooded following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida respectively, the Commission is warning people to be cautious.
They add water damage can go far beyond rust, including damaging important mechanical and electronic systems such as airbag controllers.
In order to minimize your risk of buying a flood damaged vehicle, there are some steps you can take including buying from a reputable registered dealership as they have an obligation to disclose if a car has suffered water damage.
Private sellers on the other hand, have no such obligation.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada also has a VIN Verify Service allowing you to check if a vehicle has been deemed non-repairable, and in the United States, a similar service is offered by the National Insurance Crime Bureau's VINCheckSM.
Finally, you should always bring your car to a trusted mechanic for a full inspection to ensure it is in good condition.
Common indicators a car may be flood damaged are as follows:
Interior and exterior of the vehicle:
- A musty odor in the interior, which can sometimes be covered with a strong air-freshener or shampoo. If there is a strong scent of air or fabric freshener make sure it is not masking a more serious scent.
- Upholstery or carpeting which is mismatched, loose, new, or stained.
- Damp carpets. If you can, try lifting the carpet to check for damp padding under the carpet.
- Moisture, sitting water, or debris in the trunk or spare tire area.
- Rust around doors, inside the hood and trunk latches, pedals, on unfinished metal surfaces (like the springs and bolts under the seats), or under the dashboard.
- Bubbling of paint in areas that are not exposed to weather.
- Mud or silt in the glove compartment or under seats.
- Brittle wires under the dashboard.
- Fog or moisture beads in the interior or exterior lights or instrument panel.
- Seat mounting screws that have been tampered with in an effort to dry the carpets.
Under the hood:
- Water lines in the engine compartment.
- Silt and sand in nooks and crannies.
- Check the oil – even a small amount of water in the oil will make it murky.
- Check the air filter – if there are water stains on the paper filter walk away.