Buyer Beware: Water-Damaged Vehicles May Be Flooding the Texas Market

Written by Credit Union of Texas
Published October 18, 2017
Watch out for flood damaged vehicles entering the Texas auto market following Hurricane Harvey Watch out for flood damaged vehicles entering the Texas auto market following Hurricane Harvey

If you are in the market for a used vehicle in Texas, make sure you do your homework before signing on the dotted line. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s devastating run across the state’s Gulf Coast, buyers are being warned of the potential for a surplus of flood-damaged vehicles on the market.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office estimates Harvey-related flood damage impacted as many as 1 million automobiles in the state. Many of these used cars, trucks and SUVs were submerged in floodwaters for extended periods of time. While cleaned up and appearing suitable for resale, these vehicles are technically “ticking time bombs,” the attorney general’s office warns. Unseen damage to engine components and electronics may pose serious mechanical and safety risks.

In Texas, used vehicle sellers are required to tell buyers about damage to a vehicle. The words “Flood Damage,” in fact, must be included on the vehicle’s title if such damage occurred. Failure to report the information may be a violation of Texas’ Deceptive Trade Practices Act. While a law is on the books – and most people follow it – some simply do not.

When you purchase a used vehicle from CUTX, we pull a Carfax report on that vehicle and review the history to look for activity that would indicate the auto has been reported as flood damaged. We also run a check on vehicle registrations to make sure the title has not been branded as one damaged in flood waters.

These checks, though extensive, are subject to the accuracy of the reports we obtain. For additional protection and to help prevent you from unknowingly purchasing an unreported flood-damaged vehicle, we recommend you take the following steps when purchasing a used vehicle:

  • Inspect the vehicle for signs of flooding – Take the time to visually inspect the vehicle for telltale signs of water damage. Evidence may include water and grit left behind in the interior or engine compartment; water or stain marks on carpeting; interior and exterior rusting and musty odors. It is also a good idea to ask a trusted mechanic to perform an inspection, especially on the electrical wiring system. A thorough inspection by a trusted mechanic can provide peace of mind.
  • Look into the vehicle’s history – Use an independent vehicle history reporting service to research past insurance claims related to the vehicle. The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System offers a list of providers approved on its website.
  • Inspect the title – Before finalizing any purchase, look at the paper title to make sure the vehicle hasn’t been labeled as damaged or salvaged.
  • Report suspected fraud – Texans who suspect fraud may report it to the state by calling 1-800-621-0508 or you can file a complaint online on the Texas Attorney General’s website.
  • A little investigative work before the deal is inked could potentially help you avoid serious trouble down the road.