Flood Damaged Cars Wash Up In Oklahoma

Friday, February 16th 2007, 8:13 pm
By: News On 6

Flood damaged cars are washing up in Green Country. A new study from Carfax says the rising tide of waterlogged wrecks has doubled across the country from just a few years ago. News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright investigates how many of them are here in Oklahoma.

Hundreds of thousands of cars were damaged by hurricane Katrina and the resulting flood. Many of those cars have been cleaned up and sold elsewhere, like here in Oklahoma. With a 231 percent increase the state ranks fourth in the nation when it comes to having the largest increase of flood damaged vehicles.

"They don't want to see them in their backyard because someone has seen the car, so they take it across state lines where you don't know what the history of that car is,” Consumer Rights Attorney Luke Wallace said. “That's why people from New York come to Oklahoma to buy cars and vice versa."

Water can ruin a car's most important features, like the electrical and safety systems, it can also cause airbags and antilock brakes to fail. If you end up with a vehicle that has been flooded, and don't know it, it's not only fraud, it could be deadly.

Doing your homework when shopping for a car starts at the dealership. Ask specific questions about if the car has ever been wrecked or flood damaged, because a title in a new state sometimes doesn't reflect the damage.

"If you don't do anything, you don't ask any questions, then the law doesn't protect you," Wallace said.

Before you buy, make sure you see the title. You want it to be green. Orange titles mean the vehicle has been rebuilt, red indicates salvage vehicles and a blue title means the car has been junked. A title check will tell you the car's honest history, but that can take two weeks. At the least you should check the title for previous owners and beware if one is an insurance company.

"That's a huge red flag,” said Wallace. “Lots of times, insurance companies won't be on the front of the title but on the back. If you see an insurance company, it's been totaled, salvaged or something like that."

Also, pay a mechanic to do a thorough check of the car before you buy; spending $50 or so now could save you much more money down the road.

If you sign a contract to buy a car, look in the fine print, if it says pre-dispute resolution clause or arbitration clause, you won't be able to take them to court if there's a problem later. You can cross out the clause then sign the contract, if the dealer says no, buy someplace else.

How to Inspect A Car For Flood Damage:

  1. Seat-belt retractors: Pull them out, moisture, rust and mildew hides deep inside.

  2. Door speakers: They often won't be operational because of water damage.

  3. Spare-tire nooks: They are often overlooked by cleaners.

  4. New components in an older car.

  5. Rust in springs under seats.

  6. Mud or grit in alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses and around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays.

  7. Excessive rust and flaking metal on the undercarriage that would not normally be associated with newer cars.

  8. Upholstery: Musty or mildewed smell that's hard to entirely remove, even with repeated cleaning.