Consumers considering used car purchases urged to check out vehicle history
Consumers in the market to purchase a used car should keep an eye out for flood-damaged vehicles during their search. Hurricanes and flooding events in Louisiana and nearby states in the last few months mean that consumers need to be on their guard.
“Louisiana has been through enough floods to know that the aftermath can bring out scammers and people looking to take advantage of unsuspecting victims,” said Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon. “Protecting yourself and your finances from vehicles that have been flooded or otherwise damaged beyond repair is important enough that consumers should be willing to walk away from deals that can’t be researched.”
Under Louisiana state law, if a vehicle has been declared a total loss because it has flooded, it cannot be resold. Consumers should be aware that any vehicle that is declared a total loss as a result of flooding and is issued an insurance settlement will become the property of the insurance company and be issued a certificate of destruction. The policyholder will not have the opportunity to buy the vehicle back if it was a total loss caused by flooding. Any vehicle whose power train, computer or electrical system has been damaged by flooding is a total loss under Louisiana law. The law has an exemption for antique vehicles.
The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), overseen by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, is designed to prevent concealment of flood damage and help consumers research a vehicle’s history. A list of approved vehicle history report providers can be found on the NMVTIS website at www.vehiclehistory.gov/nmvtis_vehiclehistory.html.
Many car owners don’t carry comprehensive auto coverage that covers flood damage, so those vehicle histories may not reflect that they had water damage. Taking extra precautions can save you time and money when buying a used vehicle. The Louisiana Department of Insurance offers the following tips:
Check the vehicle for hidden damage. While a vehicle may look perfectly fine on the surface, there could be hidden damage that is not immediately noticeable. Flood damage can compromise the vehicle’s computer and safety mechanisms, which pose significant safety hazards to the new owner.
Do your own inspection. Take time to inspect the vehicle yourself or arrange for it to be looked at by a mechanic you trust before purchasing.
Know the signs of flood damage. Check the vehicle for water damage to the carpet and remove the spare tire to inspect the area for water damage. Look for rust or corrosion on wires and other components under the hood and check under the dashboard for mud or moisture. You should also be suspicious if the carpet smells damp and of mildew.
About the Louisiana Department of Insurance: The Louisiana Department of Insurance works to improve competition in the state’s insurance market while assisting individuals and businesses with the information and resources they need to be informed consumers of insurance. As a regulator, the LDI enforces the laws that provide a fair and stable marketplace and makes certain that insurers comply with the laws in place to protect policyholders. You can contact the LDI by calling 1-800-259-5300 or visiting www.ldi.la.gov.
Contributed by the Louisiana Department of Insurance.