The Division of Insurance is warning Nevada consumers to be on the lookout for flood-damaged vehicles when considering purchasing a car in Nevada. Even though it has been several months since Hurricanes Irma and Harvey devastated Texas and Florida, there were thousands of vehicles that were damaged in the two storms. Some of these vehicles may be making their way to Nevada.
“Nevada consumers need to be extremely careful and do their research before purchasing a used vehicle to make sure they are not buying a flood-damaged car,” said Insurance Commissioner Barbara Richardson. “Not only will they be buying an unsafe vehicle prone to failure, but they may also not be able to get that vehicle insured.”
Insurance companies usually declare flood-damaged vehicles as total losses and hand them to auction houses or salvage yards. While it is completely legal to resell a total-loss vehicle as long as the damage is disclosed, when a consumer tries to obtain insurance for it, some insurance companies will often insure that damaged vehicle at significantly higher rates, if at all.
If a flood-damaged vehicle was not adequately insured by the previous owner, that vehicle may also not be properly titled. In other cases, unscrupulous buyers will buy damaged vehicles and seek to obtain a clean title by transferring the title without following the procedure required by law to acquire either a salvage title or a nonrepairable vehicle certificate. Those vehicles may be cleaned up and sold without any disclosure of the flood damage. Not knowing you purchased a flood-damaged vehicle could have serious implications, especially if you are involved in a collision and the vehicle is deemed a total-loss. This means the insurance company will pay for what the vehicle was worth at the time of the incident and not what the consumer paid for it.
That is why it is imperative for consumers to be vigilant and know what to look for before purchasing a vehicle. Luckily, there are numerous resources that can help to determine if a car has been damaged by a flood. According to the Bureau of Justice, consumers can visit the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), which is designed to prevent concealment of flood damage and other vehicle histories at https://www.vehiclehistory.gov. Consumers may also visit Carfax, Auto Check or VinAudit for a comprehensive vehicle history reports.
Consumers should also consider the following tips:
- Shop at a reputable dealership or have a reputable mechanic inspect any vehicle purchased via a private-party sale.
- Inspect the vehicle for a musty or moldy smell.
- Check out the headlights and tail lights. If they appear foggy, they may have moisture trapped inside.
- Look under the hood for any rusty cables or other elements.