Clark Howard: Flooded cars are flooding the market

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I gave warnings about “flood cars” entering the used car market. At that time, hundreds of thousands of vehicles were rebuilt and had their titles “washed.” But this is really a recurring problem that happens anytime we have a major hurricane season or flooding.

Now we’ve had terrible flooding in Dallas, Colorado, and other parts of the country. If you’ve seen any of the video of the tragic loss of life and families torn apart, you know what I’m talking about.
Following any round of extreme flooding, you always have the dishonest people who take flooded vehicles into certain states where they can easily “wash” the titles. That action removes any evidence that the vehicle was ever in a flood.

These cars often end up in the hands of “curb stoners,” which are illegal dealers. They pretend they’re selling their sister’s car or their mother’s car and they hope you don’t know what they know. About 20 percent of these cars go to unsuspecting people overseas. The rest stay right here at home.
To the naked eye, there’s no telling that anything is amiss with these cars. But you’ll know you’ve got a flood car when you encounter failed electrical systems throughout the vehicle.

There’s only one way to protect yourself: have the vehicle inspected by a diagnostic mechanic before you buy.

Here’s my key rule of used-car buying: Have the car inspected by a certified diagnostic mechanic of your choosing as a condition of purchase. If a dealer refuses to let you do this, you know not to do business with them!

You want an ASE-certified mechanic. Garages that participate in the Blue Seal program typically feature the most highly trained mechanics.

Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website

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