Buyer Beware: Don't Buy a Flooded Vehicle

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Hurricane Irene left many areas flooded -- damaging hundreds of cars. Experts say some of those cars may show up for sale here in Virginia. There are some ways you can make sure you're not suckered into buying one of the damaged cars. NBC 12 car expert, Emmerson Miles shares some important red flags.

Miles says, "It could work for months, then all of a sudden one thing fails, something else fails." He knows how to spot water damage and says, "Look in the places you wouldn't think to look, under the spare tire, down in the wells in the trunk area, in the low areas where any water would pool up. Another thing I may do if I suspect water damage, pull one of these panels and pull the carpet up and look up underneath it." Not only can the spot the damage, Miles has seen water damaged cars come through his shop. He says, "I have seen vehicles with flood damage and I have seen it after the fact, after people have bought them and it can create a nightmare."

Experts say anytime there is flooding -- damaged cars make their way across the country. It's why you have to know what to look for, especially when buying a used vehicle. Miles says, "Fresh water does one thing, brackish water does another and salt water does something else. I mean it can be devastating on the electrical system and the body of the car."

The experts say one of the first things you want to do is get inside the car look for water damage and smell to see if there is a mildew like odor -- but your inspection shouldn't stop there. Take the car to an expert they will search places you may never think to look. Miles says, "Look up in the wheel well areas, the bumper covers, and all kinds of little crevices where a person that is trying to hide that wouldn't think to clean, because you can't get everywhere."

Consumers should also check the car's history on sites like Carfax. Another tool -- is the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System -- Windy VanCuren, with AAA says the site can also help prevent title fraud. She says, "They will put in vehicle history in the system and they do a query in the system before they issue any new titles, so that also helps to protect the consumers."

Another red flag that a car has water damage -- sensors like the airbag and tire pressure gauges may not be working. There are also other places you should investigate. Miles says, "Where you are going to look is under the seats at the springs and unprotected metal parts underneath the dashboard." Even if you think you or a mechanic has preformed a perfect inspection -- damage could still be hidden -- so if you suspect there's flood damage -- keep your cash and look for another car.

For more tips and helpful information, click the links below:

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.