Over the next
few months, there will be a large number of flood-damaged cars coming
onto the used car market. Theyll be thoroughly cleaned up
and rehabbed to look ok at first glance but youd better
look a lot closer. You dont want to inherit the keys to a
four-wheeled Das Boot. Trust me.
Here are some
red flags to watch for. If you see even one of them, hold onto your
checkbook and flee!
in the interior dome light or instrument cluster
Bad news if
you spot this. Evidence of moisture in the cars interior is
a clear warning to drop that car from your list and move on. Also
check head and tail-light housings, etc. Those parts are insulated
from rain but will often show signs of having been submerged.
water line on the inside door panels
If you see
anything like that, the car is not something you want to even consider
buying.It means the cabin was once a bathtub. Also check
the engine compartment and look at the top of the engine, which
should never get wet. Be very suspicious if the sound-deadening
material thats often attached to the underside of the hood
has been removed; also look for warped cardboard interior trim panels,
as in the glovebox area.
A dead giveaway
that the car slept with the fishes.
car will typically be permeated by mold; the mold will work its
way into nooks and crannies that are all-but-impossible to clean.
Be very suspicious if the car has a bleach smell or has been spray-bombed
with some sort of fragrance. The seller could be trying to hide
the stink of 10,000 leagues under the sea.
stains in the trunk, especially the underside of the trunk lid
factory seals on modern cars are usually impervious to rain and
car washes, so if you see any indication that water got into the
trunk, especially the underside of the trunk, the car was probably
doing a pretty good imitation of a submarine at some point. Ditto
the engine compartment. Walk away. Rapidly.
carpets/upholstery in a late model vehicle
If the car
youre looking at is only four or five years old, but clearly
has a brand-new carpet, thats whats known in law enforcement
as a clue. Ditto the upholstery. Somethings fishy
here literally. Also check up under the dash for signs of
water; if the car was flooded, youll probably see a light
coating of rust as these parts were never intended to get wet and
so were never rust-proofed.
vehicles are usually totaled by the insurance company
and supposed to be crushed or parted out. But unscrupulous
players sometimes snatch them from the crusher, fiddle with the
paperwork to hide the record of the car being totaled (this is called
a salvage title in the business) clean them up
then unload them on unsuspecting buyers. Always run a Carfax (www.carfax.com)
which, while not foolproof, will help uncover a bait-and-switch
title/evidence of fraud and other very bright red flags that could
save you a lot of grief, such as multiple owners in a very short
period of time.
to be true deals
always are. If you come across a used car thats priced substantially
less than its fair market value, and theres no obvious, legitimate
reason for this such as much higher than usual mileage
assume the worst. Sellers are rarely stupid but buyers are
often gulled by their greed for a good deal. Dont let dollar
signs blind you or you could end up buying a lot more than
you bargained for.
having any prospective purchase examined by a third-party mechanic
(not the dealers guy). Most honest dealers will not
object to this as a condition of sale; if they do, consider it fair
warning and consider shopping someplace else. It shouldnt
cost you more than $100 or so to have a mechanic put the car up
on a lift and give it a thorough once-over.
or so up front to avoid inheriting someone elses water-logged
ruin is money well-spent!
with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.
[send him mail] is an automotive
columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2011 Eric Peters
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