If you’re looking for a car some time in the next few months, you better tell the dealer, “Show me the CarFax.”

After the record rainfall from Hurricane Harvey in Texas, nearly 1 million cars were either damaged or completely destroyed by floodwaters. Just like after Hurricane Katrina, some of those cars may actually come back onto the market for sale at a used car dealer.

When considering a used or certified pre-owned vehicle, it is always recommended that you have a trustworthy mechanic do a thorough inspection of the vehicle, looking for any evidence of major defect (I was just in this position myself, so I can say this from recent experience!).

Especially if you are looking for a vehicle in Texas or Louisiana, you would be a fool not to have a trusted mechanic do the most thorough inspection on the car.

KXAN reports on what to do during your vehicle search:

“After a big storm, we will almost always get a car or two in that has suffered some water damage,” said Joe Lamping, owner of Flamingo Automotive.

Lamping founded the automotive shop nearly 30 years ago and does regular used vehicle inspections. He says Harvey will make way for a lot of dishonest car sales.

“There are thousands of cars that went underwater,” he said. “So there are going to be a lot of cars flooding the market that are going to have some problems with them.”

There are several things that indicate flood damage. One is if there is dirt and debris tucked under the weather stripping. Open the car doors and pull at the weathering a little bit to see if there is anything that shows up.

If you have any hint of a musty smell, that also does not bode well. Men, have your wife/girlfriend or a lady friend come with you to see if she smells anything. Women have a better sense of smell than men, don’t discount it!

If there are new and different floor mats than those that came with the vehicle, it may be because a dealer is trying to cover up that musty smell, or because the floor mats were so badly damaged that it would give away the fact that the car was flooded.

There are other mechanical things that can be clearly seen by a mechanic when they put it up onto a lift. One of the things that often manifests is an issue with airbags and airbag sensors. Those components don’t like water, but it is difficult to immediately see an issue with that part of the car.

That’s more than just functional, mind you. If someone hits your car and the airbags don’t deploy, that’s some serious injuries you could sustain.

Now, if people were generally more honest, this would not be so much of an issue. But people, being the fallen, wretched beings that we are, will often try to get around insurance reporting requirements. So if that damage was never reported, it may not even show up on a CarFax report.

CarFax will be very helpful, but regardless of that, always have a trusted mechanic inspect it. Especially now, have them really look for any evidence of flood damage. If they find any, and the dealer did not inform you of that, it may be time to place a call to the Better Business Bureau.


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