BBB warns flood-damaged cars hitting the market

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Recent flooding in North Carolina from Hurricane Matthew has the Better Business Bureau warning those searching for a new car to be weary of flood-damaged cars. 

The BBB expects "submariners," which are vehicles that have had water damages, to hit local markets soon.

After a vehicle has incurred flood damage, the insurance company may declare it a total loss. When a car is declared a total loss, it should be sent to the junkyard. However, the BBB says that isn't always the case.

"Many of these cars are often sold at auction as 'salvage' vehicles," and that "they may end up for sale in used car lots, classified ads or online on Craigslist," the BBB says. 

Worse yet, the bureau warns that it may be hard to tell if a car is a 'submariner' after a thorough cleaning, new carpet and floor mats.

"Buying a car that has been exposed to flood waters can have hidden problems including mold and mildew, rusty wiring, computer malfunctions, airbags that don't inflate and more."

Before hitting the car markets, keep the Better Business Bureau's 10 tips to help spot flood-damaged vehicles.

1. Ask to see the title of a used car. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the car came from a flood-damaged area and if the title is stamped 'salvage.'

2. Check all gauges on the dashboard to make sure they are accurate, and look for signs of water.

3. Test the equipment including lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, sound system, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work.

4. Flex some wires under the dash to see if they bend of crack, since wet wires become brittle upon drying and can crack or fail at any time.

5. Check the interior of the trunk and glove compartment, and beneath the seats and dashboard for signs of mud, rust or water damage.

6. Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery and carpeting. Carpeting that has been replaced may fit too loosely or may not match the interior color.

7. Check for a well-defined line, or 'watermark,' and for musty odors resulting from mildew.

8. Check the car's dealer's BBB review to see if they have a history of complaints.

9. Ask the dealer directly if the car has been damaged by floodwater.

10. Get a vehicle history report based on its VIN number.

Copyright 2016 WCNC


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