Flooding is a fairly common occurrence in Houston. During flooding episodes in Houston, and indeed any other city, many people who really ought to know better lose their cars by driving them into standing water and subsequently discovering that 'puddle' is deeper than it initially appeared. Often, those cars, declared total losses by insurance companies, are supposed to be destroyed. Sadly, there are unscrupulous individuals who will buy those cars, clean them up and try to sell them as used cars. The Houston-area Better Business Bureau offers advice to help you spot former submariner automobiles masquerading as good clean used cars.
If you live in Houston, you know that occasionally the rains will come and the resulting water does not always go away right away. The event of 2010's Fourth of July weekend is the most recent example of this phenomena.
The simple fact of the matter is that flooding is a fairly common occurrence in the city. During flooding episodes in Houston, and indeed any other city, many people who really ought to know better lose their cars by driving them into standing water and subsequently discovering that 'puddle' is deeper than it initially appeared.
Often, those cars are declared total losses by insurance companies and are supposed to be destroyed. Sadly, there are unscrupulous individuals who will buy those cars, clean them up and try to sell them as used cars.
Another concern specific to used car shoppers in the Houston area, particularly anyone looking to buy a good clean five- or six- year old car is hurricane damage. Those shoppers would be well advised to recall that's right about the time Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast and turned New Orleans and surrounding areas into a giant Petri dish.
Given that Katrina happened in late summer of '05, more than a few then brand-new 2006 model cars were sitting on dealer's lots and wound up getting soaked. Again, many were declared total losses but somehow wound up at auctions where they were sold into the secondary market.
Given Houston's proximity to the areas most affected by both the hurricane and the flooding that happened in its aftermath, odds are high that the city attracted more than its fair share of these cars. And while they may look just as good as any other car on the surface, buying a car that's been exposed to flood waters is fraught with peril on a number of fronts.
To help you spot these former submariner automobiles, potentially masquerading as good clean used cars, the Houston-area Better Business Bureau offers the following advice.
Don't Get Soaked Buying a Flood-Damaged Car
1. Ask to see the title of a used car. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the car came from a flood-damaged state and if the title is stamped "salvage."
2. Check all gauges on the dashboard to make sure they are accurate, and look for signs of water.
3. Test the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work. Also, flex some wires under the dash to see if they bend or crack, since wet wires become brittle upon drying and can crack or fail at any time.
4. Check the trunk, glove compartment, and beneath the seats and dash for signs of mud, rust or water damage.
5. Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery and carpeting. Carpeting that has been replaced may fit too loosely or may not match the interior color.
6. Check for a well-defined line, or watermark, and for musty odors resulting from mildew.
7. Check out the reliability of the dealer by contacting the Better Business Bureau where the company is located.
8. If the car's history seems suspicious, ask the dealer or individual directly if the car has been damaged by floodwater.
Before buying any used car, always get a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic. The extra cost may save you money in the long run if major problems are discovered.
Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan Houston, Inc.