Hurricane Harvey, the storm that ravaged Houston this summer, is believed to have trashed over a million automobiles. Those vehicles were supposed to be classified as salvage, but many have been unlawfully sold to secondary markets. Many of these have shown up in California car lots.
As Houston is truck country, many of these waterlogged vehicles are pickups.
Car buyers are always on the lookout for a bargain. But a car that has been damaged by floodwater, while it may appear drivable, will cause serious problems for new owners:
- Whatever you paid for the vehicle, it was probably too much. Water damage typically cuts an auto’s value by 75 percent. It may be worth zero, even if you can get it to start.
- Flood water corrodes engines, wiring and electrical components, causing repair costs that far exceed the car’s value.
- Immersion damages brakes. No bargain is worth brake failure while the car is in motion.
There are telltale signs that a dried out car was once submerged:
- The upholstery will seem brand new
- You may notice rust under the accelerator and brake pedals
- The odd appearance of drops of water in unlikely places – like the dome light
- Smell. Flooded cars have a characteristic musty or moldy odor.
The practice of deception
Selling damaged cars is hugely deceptive. Many dealers replace visibly damaged elements to make the vehicle appear presentable. If they fail to inform you the vehicle is flood-damaged – which they must, by law -- they can actually sell it at market price – greatly adding to the pain of purchase.
Make them pay
You are unlikely to make any headway negotiating a refund with a used car dealer. Dealers that sell you a value-less, dangerous vehicle probably won’t take responsibility for their error.
Your best hope of minimizing your losses is to work with McMillan Law Group to get your money back and teach that dealer a lesson.