OKLAHOMA CITY – While recovery efforts are ongoing in Texas and Louisiana following Hurricane Harvey, Oklahoma leaders are warning residents about purchasing vehicles from the affected areas.
Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak is warning Oklahomans to be on the lookout for flood-damaged vehicles.
Experts estimate that as many as 1 million vehicles were damaged during Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. In some cases, those vehicles can be assigned a salvage title, branded ‘flood damaged,’ and sent to auto dealerships across the country.
“Scammers will definitely use this situation to their advantage,” said Doak. “While some just fail to tell you the car’s true history, others will intentionally hide it through a process called “title washing.” They’ll buy the car for next to nothing, do shoddy repair work, then register it in another state that doesn’t brand its vehicles so they can hide the fact that the car was rebuilt. It’s despicable. Not only is the owner at risk for major headaches down the road, but they’re also at risk of injury. Flood damage can compromise the car’s computer and safety mechanisms. People need to be very careful when buying a used vehicle.”
Officials say you should always inspect the car by checking the engine for a high water mark on the block or radiator, look for rust or corrosion and be suspicious if the carpet smells damp or of mildew.
Also, shop at a reputable dealership since many flooded vehicles often end up at car auctions.
Before purchasing a vehicle, you should ask the dealer to obtain a detailed history of the car and consider taking the vehicle to a mechanic for an inspection.
“Flooded cars are a ticking time bomb,” Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said. “A car that has been cleaned up may run fine and even look fine, but in reality it is a matter of time before something goes wrong. When the electrical, mechanical and safety systems are exposed to water, it compromises the essential functions of the vehicle, putting families and those who share the road at risk.
“I encourage Oklahomans looking for used vehicles to use extreme caution. It’s unfortunate, but con artists view tragedies like we have seen recently as an opportunity to take advantage of others. We will pursue charges if they do this in our state.”
To report flooded cars being sold in Oklahoma, call the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at (405) 521-2029.