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Warning For Consumers About Flooded Vehicles For Sale

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

The rain is gone, but the effects are far reaching in many ways.

“With the amount of rain we have seen over the past month, it is important for consumers to be aware and ask questions before purchasing a used vehicle,” Attorney General Scott Pruitt said. “Unfortunately a few dishonest car dealers have found ways to cover up flood damage so that a potential buyer does not find out until after the purchase.”

Oklahoma was recently hit with wild weather including flash flooding that produced a lot of flooded and totaled vehicles.

5/19/2015 Related Story: Strong Storms Bring Heavy Flooding, Damaging Winds To Parts Of Oklahoma

"That car is supposed to be salvaged once it becomes a total loss,” consumer advocate attorney Kent McGuire said. “However that car can be sold to someone out of state, taken out of state, maybe to multiple states and retitled as a clean title vehicle."

It's called "washing" a title. Alabama and Louisiana are a couple of states that make it a little easier to retitle a car. A good place to start is Carfax.com. A clean title is blue in color, and red or orange means there is a problem.

"If there are changes in a short period of time with multiple states, walk away from it,” McGuire said.

Title searches are not foolproof, however. McGuire also recommends checking with the Department of Motor Vehicles and to take a good look at and smell of the car for yourself.

When a car drives through water, several problems can occur.

"It can get into the seals of the doors,” Brad Thompson of Edmond Hyundai said.

It can also flood the interior.

"There are a lot of electrical components that are underneath carpets, and then it can also short them out,” Thompson said.

Water does not have to reach above the bumper to cause problems under the hood.

"You're talking about air filters. They get clogged up. Distributors get wet, and when distributors get wet the car dies,” Thompson said.

Red flags to look for include water marks, mildew odor, replaced carpet, condensation on the windows and rust near the VIN number or underneath the car.

Additional tips for car buyers to protect themselves from purchasing a flood-damaged car include:

  • Shop at a reputable dealership.
  • Ask the dealer about the car's history and the location of its previous owners.
  • Look under the hood for signs of rust.
  • Have the car inspected by a trusted licensed mechanic before making a purchase.

To report a vehicle to the Attorney General, call (405) 521-2029 or file a complaint online.

Learn more about filing a complaint with the Attorney General.

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