Do sellers in Florida have to disclose storm/water damage on their vehicles?
These flooded cars will end up at salvage auctions in the region; many will be bought by rebuilders and sold on the used car market. These vehicles will be marked with a salvage or total-loss title, but there are many unscrupulous sellers that know how to hide the flood damage and even wash the titles so that they appear to be clear.
Thousands of vehicles are already arriving at Insurance Auto Auction and Copart auction lots and soon enough they will be approved for sale to dismantlers, exporters, rebuilders, and, in some cases, even the general public, so it won’t be long before we see some of these cars back on the road.
The first and easiest step to spotting a salvage car is to check the history based on the VIN. You’ll notice I did not call it a CarFax report because checking the history requires using multiple sources. The best place to start is the national database from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. This database will tell you if a vehicle has been marked as salvage or stolen and allow you to eliminate it from your list before you spend money on any of the more detailed reports. If the VIN clears the NICB check, the next step is to run it through an NMVITS provider. Luckily, there is also an option there through VehicleHistory.com which will tell you if the vehicle has been through a salvage auction along with some additional registration and sales data.
Once you’ve run the VIN through sources, then you should run it through CarFax and AutoCheck. Even though it can get costly to run these reports, I always recommend running both as each one has some unique data sources that can offer additional information. The best strategy is usually to buy the multiple report option which will let you check multiple vehicles at a discounted rate. You may also find that dealers will offer a CarFax for vehicles on their lot. I prefer to run them for myself as they can often be outdated or at worst, incorrect.
Even if a vehicle is clear on the reports, it doesn't mean that nothing happened to it. Many cars without comprehensive insurance coverage will never see an insurance adjustor or a salvage auction, so they will continue to keep their clear title. Owners may try to repair them or sell them to rebuilders who will look to flip them. That's what makes a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) so important. The traditional mindset to look for mud or rust on the car in order to spot flood damage does not always match with reality. This is due to the fact that a lot of the cars get partially cleaned up at the salvage auctions that they are carted off to immediately following a flood event.
The proper way to spot thoroughly cleaned flood damaged cars starts with the seats. The seat rails will usually receive some cleaning and lubrication but the bolts which hold them to the floor are often covered by plastic trim, trapping water inside. Look underneath that plastic trim–it can easily be popped off with a common screwdriver. If the bolt head shows rust, the car is likely to have taken on water. The next step is to check under the dash. While visible electrical connectors may have been cleaned and lubricated, it is rare that wires and connector higher up behind the dash are cleaned. You will often spot mud or water staining on these connectors if the car has been submerged
The carpet can also be another giveaway that the car has seen water. In most cases, the carpet will have been cleaned and dried so it will not be visibly damp. If it looks too new for the car or like it does not fit snugly then it is likely that it has been removed for cleaning or replaced with a new one. There are also more invasive methods of checking the car, such as pulling back the carpet or removing a door panel to see if there is a water line. Most unscrupulous sellers will get spooked as soon as you start looking at seat bolts or under the dash. Do not be afraid to inspect every part of the car before buying and if seller says something then walk away.
Of course general rusting and damage.
Yes, It’s illegal for a dealer to sell you a damaged vehicle without disclosing the car’s condition, but some do. They may use illegal practices to conceal a vehicle’s checkered past or omit the car’s previous problems when talking it up to a customer. Or, they simply may not know the vehicle is not in good condition. If you discover your shiny new ride is a dud, you may have legal recourse to get your money back.
Florida requires that flood damaged cars have a branded title. Read more ------------- https://www.flhsmv.gov/safety-center/consumer-education/consumer-advisory-flooded- vehicles/
An individual may not be held to the same laws as dealers are so be aware of that.
An individual seller selling it that did not put it on there insurance or report it will not have a report of it, so very well may go by without being told to the new buyer, it up to you the buyer to inspect it and sold as/is, then its up to you and attorney.
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