How to figure out if you're buying a flood-damaged car

RALEIGH, NC — Flooding continues to plague Central North Carolina, and with it comes the issue of flood-damaged cars.

But what can you do to avoid buying a flood-damaged vehicle?

There's a lot you can do, it turns out.

And if someone manages to sell you one without your knowledge – the state can help.

A buyer must do some detective work figure out if the vehicle they want to buy is a flood car.

They talk about new car smell.

Some flooded vehicles can smell like swamp.

"I would look under the hood," said inspector J.D. Walters at the state Department of Motor Vehicles License and Theft Division. "Look for water-mark stains."

He added, "As I pull out this seat belt, I see dirt and moisture from flooding. You can see dust in it. It's wet."

Electrical problems from floods can take time to develop while wiring can show corrosion.

"Electric seats, windows and the radio. When a car is involved in a flood, these stop working," Walters said.

North Carolina brands a vehicle as flood damaged right on the title.

That lets the buyer know the vehicle has been sitting in a significant amount of water.

"The seller is required to give the buyer a damage disclosure," Walters said. "One question is, ‘Was it involved in a flood?' If the seller does not disclose to a buyer, it's a crime punishable by jail time."

The most important thing is to have a mechanic check the car out before you buy it.

If you think you've been scammed, you can call the DMV license bureau and they'll investigate your complaint.

Also, there are a couple of websites you can check which will show you if the title of the car has been scrubbed to avoid showing it's flood damaged.

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